Toxins in Venus Bay pipis

Key messages

  • High levels of Diarrhetic Shellfish Poison have been detected in pipis near Venus Bay.
  • The Victorian Government advises that pipis harvested from this area should not be eaten due to the risk of serious illness from Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning that can occur up to 24 hours after ingestion..
  • There are no concerns about the consumption of fish such as King George whiting harvested in the Venus Bay area.
  • Pipis bought from retail or wholesale sources including from aquaculture farms are safe to eat as they are regularly monitored for contaminants.
  • For further information call 136 186 or go to www.vfa.vic.gov.au.

What is the issue?

Sampling of pipis in the Venus Bay area has detected toxins, which that can cause Diarrhetic Shellfish Poisoning and also Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning in humans.

How has the government responded?

A coordinated response between government agencies tested for toxin levels in the pipi population at Venus Bay and surrounding areas. Further testing has now identified further toxins of concern. Sampling will be repeated in order to understand how long this risk may continue.

The Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources advise that the consumption of pipis from the Venus Bay area should be avoided.

How do toxins enter the food chain?

Okadaic acid is a naturally occurring marine toxin produced by microscopic algae. Pipis eat these algae and can retain the toxin, sometimes at levels that can make people sick. Okadaic acid causes DSP in humans who eat  shellfish contaminated with the toxin.

What are the symptoms of diarrhetic shellfish poisoning?

Diarrhetic Shellfish Poisoning can cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhoea.

Anyone experiencing symptoms that may be caused by DSP should seek advice from their doctor or call NURSE-ON-CALL on 1300 60 60 24.

Can I tell if pipis are toxic by the way they look?

No. Pipis containing toxic levels of okadaic acid do not look or taste any different from pipis that are not contaminated with this toxin. Laboratory testing of pipi meat is the only known method of detecting toxin.

Does cooking pipis make them safe to eat?

No. Freezing or cooking does not destroy the toxin, so any pipis collected should be discarded.

If I've eaten these pipis, what should I do?

Symptoms usually develop around half an hour after consumption. Seek medical advice if you or someone in your care develops symptoms that may be caused by DSP, such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, or diarrhoea.

I have pipis harvested from the Venus Bay area. Are they safe to eat?

They may not be safe to eat. It is recommended all pipis harvested within the previous three months are discarded.

Are pipis harvested from other areas safe to eat?

Pipis bought from retail or wholesale sources including aquaculture farms are safe to eat as they are regularly monitored for contaminants. Commercial harvesting and sale for human consumption is not permitted when conditions lead to unsafe levels of toxins in pipis.

Are finfish such as King George whiting harvested from the Venus Bay area safe to eat?

There is no reason to be concerned about consuming fingfish such as King George whiting harvested in the Venus Bay area.

How should I discard pipis harvested from the Venus Bay area?

Discard uneaten pipis by placing them in your regular rubbish bin.

Can I eat pipis bought from retail or wholesale sources?

Commercial fishing in the Venus Bay area only harvests pipis for use as bait and not for human consumption.

Pipis bought from retail or wholesale sources are safe to eat as they are regularly monitored for contaminants. Commercial harvesting is not permitted when conditions lead to unsafe levels of toxins in pipis.

Can I use pipis for bait?

Pipis are safe to be used as bait for fishing.

More information

For further information call 136 186.