Abalone safe to eat

30 January 2019 | Fishing

Shellfish aficionados are free to enjoy abalone from the Lüderitz Aquaculture Production area again after an almost two-week ban was lifted yesterday.

The fisheries and marine resources ministry yesterday announced that it is safe to consume abalone again after the most recent test results for paralytic shellfish poison (PSP) came back negative.

The tests were facilitated by the Namibia Standards Institute (NSI) and were guided by the National Shellfish Sanitation Programme.

Two consecutive re-tests produced negative results, the ministry said.

On 11 January, the ministry warned the public not to eat abalone from the Lüderitz area after a harmful algal bloom event was detected. The presence of biotoxin-producing algae was confirmed during routine testing by the NSI.

Paralytic shellfish poison is a naturally occurring toxin which can concentrate in shellfish and, when eaten, can cause illness in humans.

This biotoxin affects the nervous system and paralyses muscles, thus the term paralytic shellfish poison. High levels of PSP can cause severe illness and even death. It's normal for biotoxin-producing algae to be present in seawater but they are usually at very low concentrations and pose no problems.

When the algae bloom, the concentration increases dramatically. The increased algae become a greater food source for shellfish and the more algae the shellfish eat, the more biotoxin they accumulate.

Biotoxins don't harm shellfish, so the level in their tissue continues to climb until the bloom subsides. When the number of toxin-producing algal cells returns to normal low levels, the shellfish eventually flush the toxin from their systems.

It can be several days to several months or longer before they're safe to eat again.

Last week, Namibian Sun reported that the fisheries ministry had also given the green light to the public to eat oysters from Walvis Bay Aquaculture Production Area 1, although mussels from the same area are still considered unsafe.

A public warning was issued after oyster and mussel samples from the production area tested positive for diarrhetic shellfish poisoning (DSP), making them unsafe for consumption.

JANA-MARI SMITH

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