02 April 2015

Shellfish health warning for the Murray River, Pinjarra and Peel-Harvey Estuary

The Department of Health is reminding people not to eat shellfish collected from the wild – within the Murray River, near Pinjarra and the Peel-Harvey Estuary (south of Mandurah).

Acting Environmental Health Director Dr Michael Lindsay said recent tests had found high levels of a potentially harmful microscopic algae species that could produce shellfish poisoning.

"These microscopic algae, which are not visible to the naked eye, can produce toxins which could be absorbed by filter feeding shellfish. Normal cooking will not destroy these toxins that accumulate in shellfish,” Dr Lindsay said.

“Eating contaminated shellfish may cause shellfish poisoning, with symptoms including nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, dizziness, numbness, breathing difficulty or memory loss.

"As a general rule people should avoid eating wild shellfish 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.”

Dr Lindsay said anyone who had eaten shellfish collected from these or any waters and experiences these symptoms should seek medical attention.

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

Dr Lindsay said farmed shellfish purchased in WA supermarkets were not affected, as there is a strict quality-assurance program to ensure that they were safe for human consumption.

"Other recreational activities including swimming, fishing and boating are not affected by this species of microscopic algae," Dr Lindsay said.

"Not all waterways are always monitored for algal blooms. Therefore, if you see or suspect an algal bloom in a waterway, you should report this to Department of Water's ALGALWATCH during office hours on 6250 8064 or to the local council."

The Department of Water will continue to monitor algal species and levels within the Murray River and Peel-Harvey Estuary and provide advice to the Department of Health.

Further information on recreational water quality is available on the Healthy WA website (external site).

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