The Ministry for Primary Industries has today issued a public health warning against collecting shellfish in parts of the Marlborough Sounds.
Anyone eating shellfish from the Kenepuru Sound and inner Pelorus Sound, including Tawero Point and Opani-aputa Point is potentially at risk of illness, which includes numbness and tingling around the mouth and face, difficulty swallowing and breathing, diarrhoea and vomiting.
Routine tests on shellfish samples have found levels of Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning toxins to be above the safe limit set by MPI.
The toxins can also cause paralysis and respiratory failure and in severe cases, death.
MPI says mussels, oysters, tuatua, pipi, toheroa, cockles, scallops, cat's eyes, kina (sea urchin) and all other bivalve shellfish should not be eaten. It warns cooking shellfish does not remove the toxin.
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.
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.