Marine Institute

Shellfish toxicity - Warning advice remains in place for recreational gathering of shellfish

Shellfish toxicity - Warning advice remains in place for recreational gathering of shellfish17 July 2020 - The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) and the Marine Institute are reminding the public to refrain from recreational gathering of shellfish in all bays and coastline in the Southwest region, particularly in the Castlemaine Harbour for the coming weeks due to the presence of toxins, which can cause illness when contaminated shellfish are consumed.

The presence of shellfish toxins are common in summer months and is due to certain microscopic phytoplankton species, upon which shellfish filter feed. The toxins detected at the present time are high levels of Diarrheic shellfish poisoning (DSP) which can result in a temporary gastroenteritis-like illness and a less common but more serious Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP). Neither toxin is removed by cooking, but they do eventually decrease to safe levels naturally in the live shellfish over time.

Dave Clarke, Manager of the Marine Institute's Shellfish Safety programme said, 'In the past week we have continued to detect DSP toxicity in shellfish along the Southwest coasts, most notably from Dunmanus Bay to Dingle Bay where the levels seen could cause illness if consumed. PSP has also increased in the Castlemaine/Cromane area of Dingle, with some indications that this may spread into adjacent areas. These affected areas are currently closed for commercial shellfish production and the public are strongly advised against gathering bivalve mollusc shellfish such as mussels, clams, cockles or oysters for their own consumption.''

The SFPA and the Marine Institute stress that this only applies to shellfish and all other fish are safe, as is swimming and other recreational activities. Dr Susan Steele, Chair of the SFPA, states: "The SFPA and the Marine Institute have strict monitoring and testing systems in place to ensure that consumers can enjoy Irish seafood safely. We encourage people to purchase seafood, whether for personal consumption or for sale, through reputable suppliers only. 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."

The Marine Institute jointly manages the shellfish toxin and phytoplankton monitoring programmes with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland and the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority, where all the results are publicly available on the Marine Institute's Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) website https://webapps.marine.ie/habs

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For further information, please contact:

Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority
Eleanor Buckley e. Eleanor [dot] buckley [at] SFPA [dot] ie m. +353 (0)87 920 3658

Marine Institute
Sheila Byrnes e. sheila [dot] byrnes [at] marine [dot] ie m. +353 (0)87 225 0871
Sinéad Coyne e. sinead [dot] coyne [at] marine [dot] ie m. +353 (0)87 947 7090

About the SFPA
The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) is the independent statutory body responsible for the regulation of the sea-fisheries and the sea-food production sectors. It promotes compliance with the EU Common Fisheries Policy, sea-fisheries law and food safety law relating to fish and fish products, verifies compliance and, where necessary, enforces it. Its mandate covers all fishing vessels operating within Ireland's 200-mile limit, over 2,000 Irish registered fishing vessels wherever they operate and all seafood produced in Ireland's seafood processing companies. The SFPA operates through a network of regional port offices situated at Ireland's main fishery harbours. For further information visit: www.sfpa.ie