The Ministry for Primary Industries has issued a public health warning against collecting shellfish on the west coast from Waipapakauri Ramp to Pouto Point, on the northern head of the Kaipara Harbour, including the Herekino, Whangape and Hokianga Harbours. Warning signs will be posted in the coming days.
The warning, issued after routine tests showed levels of Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP) toxins above the safe limit set by the MPI, and applies to mussels, oysters, tuatua, pipi, toheroa, cockles, scallops, catseyes, kina (sea urchins), and all other bivalve shellfish.
Cooking shellfish does not remove the toxin, but pāua, crabs and crayfish may be eaten if the gut has been completely removed prior to cooking. If the gut is not removed its contents could contaminate the meat during the cooking process.
Symptoms of PSP typically appear between 10 minutes and three hours after ingestion, and may include numbness and tingling around the mouth, face, hands and feet, difficulty swallowing or breathing, dizziness, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, paralysis and respiratory failure, In severe cases it can be fatal.
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Anyone becomes ill after eating shellfish from an area where a public health warning has been issued is advised to phone Healthline (0800 611-116), or to seek medical attention immediately. They should also contact their nearest public health unit, and keep any leftover shellfish in case it can be tested.