Prevention is better than cure
The Department of Health and Human services (DHHS) is currently working towards increasing public awareness of the risks associated with eating recreationally harvested wild shellfish. This is because, over recent years, naturally-occurring algal blooms containing toxins that are harmful to human health have been detected across extensive areas of the south east and east coast of the state. Shellfish feed on the algae and concentrate the toxins in their tissue. In turn this can cause serious and even fatal illness to people who consume the shellfish.
There are also ongoing risks to human health from eating shellfish in the Derwent and Tamar estuaries, marinas and other areas subject to boat discharges, near sewage, industrial or stormwater outfalls, areas where septic tanks may be failing and following heavy rainfall events.
Routine monitoring of shellfish by the Tasmanian Shellfish Quality Assurance Program (TSQAP) has, in some locations, detected levels of toxins that are well above the safe level for human consumption. When this has occurred, the Acting Director of Public Health, Dr Mark Veitch, has issued a standing health alert warning the public against collecting and eating wild shellfish. The warning explains that cooking or freezing does not make shellfish safe and to seek urgent medical help if becoming unwell after eating wild shellfish. It also outlines the symptoms of shellfish poisoning and clarifies that seafood for sale in shops and restaurants is safe to eat.
As part of informing the public and protecting human health, including the health of visitors to the state, temporary warning signs (as shown in the photo below) have also been put up in appropriate locations along the south east and east coast of the state. These have included boat ramps, tourist information centres and local notice boards.