Shellfish gatherers beware of Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP)

The first cases of Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP) from eating shellfish were reported in New Zealand in the mid-1990s.  Shellfish accumulate the biotoxin through filter-feeding on dinoflagellates containing the poison saxitoxin.  The shellfish are not harmed by it.  The Cawthron Institute has developed very fast and efficient systems for monitoring and identifying  the biotoxin.  Marine farms are immediately closed when it is detected.  To date there have been no cases of PSP from commercial shellfish products.
The Ministry for Primary Industries manage an active monitoring programme and do their best to warn the public collecting shellfish through signs at beaches, local media, and on their website, but not everyone sees or acts on these warnings, for whatever reason – perhaps limited understanding of English.  If you see anyone collecting shellfish in breach of these warnings, do let them know of the danger immediately.

Up to date information is at

PSP arises annually in the Bay of Plenty and Queen Charlotte Sound, but may occur at any North or South Island coastal site.  Symptoms occur within 30 minutes — tingling in the fingers, toes and face, difficulty breathing and swallowing, impaired and double vision – and will persist for two days.  Saxitoxin can kill.

Link to article “PSP can paralyse shellfish consumers and the industry” by Dorothy-Jean McCoubrey

News Home