Public Health Warning - Shellfish Biotoxin in Bay of Islands

The Ministry for Primary Industries today issued a public health warning against collecting shellfish in the Bay of Islands, extending to the outer heads between Cape Wiwiki to Cape Brett.  

 Routine tests on shellfish samples taken from the Bay of Islands region have shown levels of Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP) toxins above the safe limit of 0.8mg/kg set by MPI.  Anyone eating shellfish from this area is potentially at risk of illness.

  • Mussels, oysters, tuatua, pipi, toheroa, cockles, scallops, catseyes, kina (sea urchin) and all other bivalve shellfish should not be eaten.
  • Paua, crab and crayfish may still be eaten if the gut has been completely removed prior to cooking, as toxins accumulate in the gut.  If the gut is not removed, its contents could contaminate the meat during the cooking process.

Note that cooking or freezing the shellfish does not remove the toxin.

The symptoms of paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) typically appear between 10 minutes and 3 hours after ingestion and may include:

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


If anyone becomes ill after eating shellfish from an area where a public health warning has been issued, phone Healthline for advice on 0800 61 11 16, or seek medical attention immediately. You are also advised to contact your nearest public health unit (Northland District Health Board 09 430 4100 and ask for the On-call Health Protection Officer) and keep any leftover shellfish in case it can be tested.

Monitoring of toxin levels will continue and any changes will be communicated accordingly. Commercially harvested shellfish – sold in shops and supermarkets, or exported – is subject to strict water and flesh monitoring programmes by MPI to ensure they are safe to eat.

For further information please refer to the MPI website at: link)

Back to the news

Last modified: