Respect safe bivalve shellfish harvesting practices



    VANCOUVER, Aug. 14 /CNW/ - Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) strongly
advises shellfish harvesters in British Columbia to check whether fishing
areas are open and shellfish are safe to consume before they harvest.
    Bivalve shellfish can be affected by paralytic shellfish poison (PSP,
also known as "red tide") and sanitary contamination. Eating shellfish that
has been contaminated by PSP can result in serious illness or death. Cooking
the shellfish prior to consuming it does not destroy PSP or eliminate this
risk.
    Harvesters and consumers of bivalve shellfish should also be aware of
Vibrio parahaemolyticus (Vp), which can cause symptoms such as diarrhea,
cramps, nausea and vomiting if shellfish is not properly stored or cooked
prior to consumption. Vp occurs naturally in our coastal waters. The levels of
these bacteria rise with warmer water and can concentrate in bivalve
shellfish. Immediately after harvesting bivalve shellfish, freeze or
refrigerate, and then cook the shellfish as a generally effective way of
preventing illness from the Vibrio bacteria. None of these methods, however,
destroy PSP.
    Bivalve shellfish have a hinged, two-part shell. They include oysters,
clams, scallops, mussels and cockles. Other shellfish, such as shrimp, prawns
and crabs, are not affected by PSP or Vp.
    "Closures can happen quickly in-season, therefore it is essential for
public health and safety that harvesters of bivalve shellfish, before fishing,
always check to ensure that areas are open and approved for harvesting," said
Kerry Marcus of DFO's Resource Management team. "To reduce the risk of illness
from Vp, we strongly recommend not consuming raw bivalve shellfish, especially
during the warm summer months."
    Water and shellfish sampling programs are undertaken by Environment
Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to ensure that fishing areas
are safe for bivalve shellfish harvesting. Areas that exceed allowable limits
for PSP and sanitary contamination are closed by DFO. It is illegal to harvest
shellfish from a closed area.
    People buying bivalve shellfish should only purchase them from retailers
who can confirm the source of the shellfish and that it was harvested from an
open area. Shellfish that have been legally commercially harvested are safe to
eat. Proper documentation must accompany commercially-harvested shellfish to
demonstrate that it has been harvested legally and has been through the
necessary inspections.

    
    Information on PSP closures is updated frequently and is available by:

    -   Calling the toll free, 24-hour recorded information line
        1-866-431-3474
    -   Visiting http://www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/PSP
    -   Calling a local DFO office during regular business hours

    Information on sanitary contamination closures is available by:

    -   Visiting http://www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/PSP
    





For further information:

For further information: Michelle Imbeau, Communications Advisor,
Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Pacific Region, W: (604) 666-2872

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FISHERIES AND OCEANS CANADA, PACIFIC REGION

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