The Department of Fisheries and Oceans is reminding the public to watch closely for closures of rock scallops after a rare finding of paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) was discovered in the species.
“Just because they are on the beach doesn’t mean they are safe to eat,” explained Steven Groves the Section head for invertebrate for the North Coast Department of Oceans and Fisheries.
The DFO was forced to shutdown the harvest mid-November when a rare weather anomaly washed an abundance of rock scallops ashore, and which tested positive for PSP. Mr. Groves told the Observer, the scallops are not one of the species regularly affected by PSP, unlike species such as butter clams, which are known to hold the toxin for up to two years, and which face regular harvest closures.
“The rock scallops are not one of the species we [normally] worry about,” Mr. Groves said.
The weather event that causes the scallops to wash ashore is also very rare. A November wash-up that tested positive for PSP was followed by another in December, but the toxin levels had dissipated. As of Dec. 31 the DFO called off the closure of rock scallops on North Beach, but is urging the public to check it’s website for closures before consuming them.
PSP can be fatal in extreme cases, particularly in immunocompromised individuals and children.
Symptoms can appear in as little as 30 minutes after ingestion and include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, tingling or burning of the lips, gums, tongue, face, neck, arms, legs and toes. The DFO takes closures seriously and may fine anyone caught harvesting during a closure.
Cooking the shellfish has no effect on PSP and the toxin cannot be identified by sight or smell.
“It is best for harvesters to check the website the day of going to the beach, for closures,” Mr Goves said, adding that PSP levels can change quickly. If there is an active closure the DFO will put up notices by the entrance to North Beach, but it is highly recommended to check the DFO website beforehand.