The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) is warning the public not to gather shellfish in the Castlemaine Harbour area for personal consumption for the coming weeks due to the presence of a marine toxin, Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP), which can cause serious illness.
PSP was detected during routine testing as part of Ireland’s shellfish monitoring programme which is managed by the SFPA with the Marine Institute and provides an early warning system for the presence of potential toxins. Additionally, shellfish growing areas in the South West and West Coasts are also experiencing high levels of Diarrheic shellfish poisoning (DSP) which has led to a number of areas being closed for harvesting until these toxic events pass. The SFPA is also reminding restaurants and other food businesses always to buy from approved suppliers only.
Dr Susan Steele, Chair of the SFPA, states: “We have strict monitoring and testing systems in place to ensure that consumers can enjoy Irish seafood safely and maintain Ireland’s excellent reputation as a shellfish producer. Nonetheless, everyone has a role to play in ensuring food safety. We strongly advise people to ensure they only gather live bivalves from areas where and when it is safe to do and to purchase seafood, whether for personal consumption or for sale, through reputable suppliers only. These are easy to check. The public can check the status of an area through the Marine Institute’s website while food businesses, including restaurants and retail outlets, should always look for the oval approval number on orders which confirms the supplier is approved to sell live bivalve molluscs.
Dr Steele also urged anyone who had concerns around fishing activity that might be illegal or contrary to seafood safety regulations to contact the regulator directly or by calling the SFPA confidential telephone line at 1890 76 76 76.
Phytoplankton upon which Bivalve Molluscs such as oysters, mussels, clams and cockles feed is occasionally blighted by blooms of species that produce toxins. These naturally-occurring toxins do not harm the shellfish but can cause illness in humans, when contaminated shellfish are subsequently eaten.
Under seafood safety regulations, live bivalve molluscs can only be harvested from production areas which meet the classification requirements for human consumption. Production areas are classified by the SFPA according to the quality of the waters. In addition, the SFPA conducts a monthly shellfish sampling programme of all classified production areas to monitor the levels of microbiological contamination. Shellfish production areas are also sampled on a weekly basis for analysis by the Marine Institute to determine their biotoxin status and whether an area can be open for harvesting.