What every shellfish harvester must know before harvesting bivalve shellfish

    VANCOUVER, July 11 /CNW/ - Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is advising
shellfish harvesters to check whether fishing areas are open and shellfish are
safe to consume before they fish.
    Bivalve shellfish can be affected by paralytic shellfish poison (PSP,
also known as red tide) and sanitary contamination. Eating bivalves that have
been affected by PSP can result in serious illness or death. Cooking the fish
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 the fish 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.
    "It is essential for public health and safety that before harvesting,
harvesters of bivalve shellfish always check to ensure that fishing areas are
open and approved for harvesting. To reduce the risk of illness from VP, we
strongly recommend that bivalve shellfish are not consumed raw, especially
during the warm summer months. 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," said Kerry Marcus of DFO's Resource
Management team.
    Bivalve shellfish have a hinged, two-part shell. They include oysters,
clams, scallops, mussels and cockles. Other shellfish, such as shrimp and
prawns, are not affected by PSP or Vp.
    Water and shellfish sampling programs are undertaken by Environment
Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to ensure that fishing areas
are safe for shellfish harvesting. Areas that exceed allowable limits for PSP
and sanitary contamination are closed by Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
    Information on PSP closures is updated frequently and is available by:
    - calling toll free 1-866-431-3474
    - checking www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/PSP
    - calling a local DFO office
    Information on sanitary contamination closures is available by:
    - checking www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/PSP

    Freezing, refrigerating and cooking bivalve shellfish are generally
effective ways of preventing illness from the Vibrio bacteria. None of these
methods, however, destroy PSP.

For further information:

For further information: Hannah R. Mahoney, Communications Advisor,
Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Pacific Region, (604) 666-7120; For more
information about Shellfish Closures, contact either: Randy Webb, Fishery
Management Coordinator, DFO, South Coast Area, Phone: (250) 954-2675, Email:
Randy.Webb@dfo-mpo.gc.ca; Kerry Marcus, Resource Management, DFO, South Coast
Area, Phone: (250) 754-0210, Email: Kerry.Marcus@dfo-mpo.gc.ca

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