A romantic first date along a Russell beach has sparked a toxic seafood alert that has seen a ban on collecting shellfish from the entire Bay of Islands until further notice.

Visitors and locals in the Bay of Islands this long weekend are being warned not to eat shellfish from the bay after dangerous levels of toxins were found in samples from the area.

Northland District Health Board's Health Protection Unit said people should not collect or consume any shellfish from within the entire Bay of Islands.

The warning follows sea water samples taken from Tapeka Point showing the presence of Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP) organisms well above the regulatory level.


The alert was sparked by Russell man Michael (he did not want his last name used) who was on a first date with a woman named Sarah in the township last Saturday.

The pair were walking along a beach when Michael decided it would be nice to get some fresh oysters.

So they got about a dozen off rocks, opened them and Sarah had four while he had about eight. That's when things turned decidedly sour for Michael - within an hour he started feeling "weird".

"It came on very quickly. I started feeling very sick and a couple of hours after [eating the oysters] I started losing feeling in my lips and extremities and my hands started getting paralysed," Michael said.

He rang Healthline and they advised him to get to a hospital. He then contacted the Ministry for Primary Industries and they referred the matter to Northland District Health Board, which then carried out tests.

It meant him taking things easy this past week.

Fortunately Sarah did not get the same symptoms and Michael believes it was because she did not have as many as he did.

"It was horrible. I think if I had eaten more I would have sent me into respiratory failure and I could even be dead by now."

Meanwhile, he's hoping for a second date and they will have plenty to talk about if they do get together again.

PSP toxin can be harmful and as a precautionary measure shellfish farmers in the Bay of Islands have been advised by MPI to not distribute any potentially affected products.

The symptoms of PSP include numbness and tingling around the mouth, face or extremities, difficulty in swallowing or breathing, dizziness, double vision, and in severe cases, paralyses and respiratory failure.

Symptoms usually occur within 12 hours of consuming shellfish.

Anyone who becomes ill after eating shellfish from this area should consult their doctor.

Members of the public with any queries about shellfish safety should call Northland DHB on 09 430 4100 and ask to speak with the on-call Health Protection Officer.

The ban in the Bay comes after a stretch of Northland's east coast was declared out of bounds earlier this month for gathering or eating shellfish (pictured) because of dangerous levels of toxins found in samples.

MPI has issued a public health warning about collecting or consuming shellfish between Cape Brett in the north and Taiharuru Head in the south.