11 August 2016

Shellfish health warning

for parts of the Swan and Canning Rivers

The Department of Health is asking people not to eat shellfish collected from the lower part of the Swan and Canning Rivers, following the recent widespread detection of potentially harmful microscopic algae.

The affected areas are downstream from the Causeway to Fremantle in the Swan River and downstream from Riverton Bridge to the Canning Highway in the Canning River.

WA Health Environmental Health Director Jim Dodds said the detected microscopic algae ‘Dinophysis acuminata’ could produce shellfish poisoning.

"These algae, which are not visible to the naked eye, can produce toxins which could be absorbed by filter feeding shellfish,” Mr Dodds said.

“Symptoms of shellfish poisoning include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal pain. Anyone who has eaten shellfish and experiences these symptoms should seek medical attention.

“Other recreational activities including swimming, fishing and boating are not affected by this species of microscopic algae”

Shellfish includes oysters, mussels, clams, pipis, scallops, cockles and razorclams. They do not include crustaceans such as shrimp, prawns, crabs or lobsters.

As a general rule people should avoid eating wild shellfish collected recreationally as their safety cannot be guaranteed. This is particularly the case for rivers, estuaries or other waterways with an increased likelihood of contaminant or nutrient inputs that in turn can lead to increased microscopic algae growth.

Mr Dodds said farmed shellfish purchased in supermarkets and other commercial outlets in WA were not affected – as there was a strict quality-assurance program to ensure they are safe for human consumption.

Not all waterways are always monitored for algal blooms; and anyone who sees or suspects an algal bloom in a waterway, should report this to the Department of Water's ALGALWATCH during office hours on 6250 8064 or to the local council.

Swan and Canning rivers microalgae activity reports are available on the Department of Parks and Wildlife website (External Link).

Further information regarding wild shellfish collection is available on the Department of Health website.

ENDS

Media contact: 9222 4333

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