Topic: Health

Kaumātua warns whānau of shellfish poisoning

By Kawe Kōrero Reporters , Kayne Ngātokowhā Peters
  • Northland

A Northland kaumātua is calling for whānau to beware when collecting shellfish this Summer.

This comes after the Ministery for Primary Industries issued a warning of Paralytic Shellfish Poisonining (PSP) along the North Island’s west coast and parts of the Bay of Plenty.

Kaumātua and spokesperson for the Northland District Healthboard, Te Ihi Tito, spoke to Kawekōrero Reporters.

“I believe that, with the arrival of summer, the poison starts to flourish,” said Tito.

“It grows in the ocean. It occurs naturally. Perhaps Tangaroa also wants to let us know that the seafood isn't right for us, or maybe we aren't properly nurturing our seafood.”

Areas affected with PSP include the coastline from Taranaki northward to the Hokianga Harbour mouth but does not include the inner Hokianga Harbour. The northern end of Waihi Beach south-eastwards to Opape, is also affected.

Commercially collected shellfish are fine to consume because of strict screening before it is sold off to wholesalers. But people who collect shell fish independently are at high risk.

Shellfish affected are Mussels, oysters, tuatua, pipi, toheroa, cockles, scallops, catseyes, kina and all other bivalve shellfish.

Cooking shellfish does not remove the toxin.

Pāua, crab and crayfish may still be eaten if the gut has been completely removed prior to cooking, as toxins accumulate in the gut.

PSP is caused by a group of chemicals called the saxitoxins and gonyautoxins. These chemicals all differ in their toxicity to humans and their proportions may vary, depending on the species of shellfish and the species of algae producing the toxin.

Symptoms typically appear between 10 minutes and 3 hours after ingestion. Symptoms may include:

- numbness and a tingling (prickly feeling) around the mouth, face, and extremities (hands and feet)
- difficulty swallowing or breathing
- dizziness
- headache
- nausea
- vomiting
- diarrhoea
- paralysis and respiratory failure and in severe cases, death.

If you experience any of these symptoms, call Healthline on 0800 611 116.