Shellfish poisoning stretches 200kms

Taranaki_signs

The Waikato and Taranaki District Health Boards have declared 200kms of the North Island's West Coast as unsafe for the collection of shellfish. Routine tests on shellfish samples taken have shown high levels of Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning.

The Waikato District Health Board stated on 26th October that

Routine tests on shellfish samples taken from Kawhia and Raglan have shown levels of Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP) at 0.83 and 1.10 milligrams of toxin per kilogram of flesh.  This is above the Ministry for Primary Industry safe limit of 0.8 milligrams per kilogram of flesh.  Anyone eating these toxic shellfish is potentially at risk of illness.

Today, the Taranaki District Health Board followed suit and wrote that

Routine tests on shellfish samples taken from Mohakatino this week have shown levels of PSP at (0.96mg/kg).

This means that it is unsafe to collect shellfish, including kina, mussels, toheroa, pipis, tuatua, oysters and cockles, from a huge stretch of coast. Cooking the shellfish does not make it safe for human consumption. Symptoms of PSP usually occur within 12 hours of consuming shellfish and include:

  • Numbness and tingling around the mouth, face or extremities;
  • Difficulties in swallowing or breathing;
  • Dizziness; double vision;
  • And in severe cases, paralysis and respiratory failure.

It is unclear what causes PSP. The Alaska Division of Public Health says that “the amount of toxin increases when water conditions are favorable. However, the exact combination of conditions that cause “blooms” of poison-producing plankton is not known. We do not yet understand the interaction of the water conditions.”

This is of course not the first time that the Taranaki coast's shellfish has seen these health warnings. For decades, shellfish around Waitara and Motonui has been polluted. This is due to human sewage and industrial waste that are pumped out at the Waitara river mouth. A long-standing battle has seen the Waitara community trying to get sewage pumped to a treatment plant and not discarded into the sea. Health warning sign already decorate the northern Taranaki coast.

“Signage is currently being erected in the area affected by the Public Health Warning and major stakeholders have been informed.” The signs can be added to the many warning signs already in place, and still the polluting continues.

(Images: Friends of the Waitara River)

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