Shellfish Safety | Te Whatu Ora - Te Tai Tokerau

Shellfish Safety

Click here for kaimoana/shellfish collection health warnings.

In Northland shellfish are gathered all year round, although when it’s summer at the beach we are more likely to gather kaimoana.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) regularly monitor and sample for presence of any toxins in shellfish.  Should toxins be found to be present in shellfish at levels which could cause ill health to us, MPI will alert public with public health warnings against consuming contaminated shellfish:

Click here for the latest Shellfish Biotoxin alerts and updates

Shellfish such as oysters, mussels, pipis, tuatuas, and cockles are known as "Filter Feeders".

They filter any harmful bacteria, viruses, toxins and chemicals from the seawater which then build up in their flesh and gut.

Anyone eating contaminated shellfish may then become sick, so special care must always be taken when gathering and eating shellfish.

Health Risks

Eating shellfish from areas contaminated with pollution or sewage could cause:

  • a fever
  • diarrhoea
  • stomach cramps
  • vomiting

Eating shellfish from areas with an algal bloom (biotoxin contamination) could cause:

  • numbness and a tingling (prickly feeling) around the mouth, face, and extremities (hands and feet)
  • nausea
  • loss of muscle control
  • vomiting
  • loss of memory difficulty swallowing or breathing
  • dizziness, headache
  • death

Cooking or freezing shellfish does not kill the toxins

They are still potentially very dangerous if eaten by people or animals.

For health advice 24 hours a day contact Healthline 0800 611 116

Collecting Shellfish Safely

  • Is the tide right? Check that the tide is low

  • Is the weather safe? Check the weather fore-cast for your shellfish site

  • Has it rained in the last few days? A dirty sea may mean dirty shellfish.

  • Have you got a chilled container?  Keep your shellfish cool and out of the sun until you eat them

  • Is there a shellfish toxin warning? Check the MPI website for shellfish toxin alerts

  • Have you eaten shellfish and feet ill?  Symptoms as described above typically appear between 10 minutes and 3 hours after ingestion and may include: In severe cases, paralysis and respiratory failure can occur within 12 hours of consuming shellfish. 

If you become ill after eating shellfish, phone Healthline for advice on 0800 611 116 and/or seek medical attention immediately.

Also, please contact on-call Health Protection Officer on 09-4304100 and keep any leftover shellfish so it can be tested.


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