SHELLFISH along the Dorset coast still contains traces of a potentially deadly toxin, it has been announced.
As reported in the Echo, the Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning (ASP) toxin was found to affect scallops and mussels and Portland Harbour was issued with a closure notice for the harvesting of filter feeding molluscs.
The closure does not include The Fleet oyster beds.
Routine testing of scallops has indicated the presence of toxin in the algae in quantities which present a risk to health.
Today, the Weymouth Port Health Authority has announced that the closure is still in place due to higher levels of ASP continuing to be detected.
It is due to an algal bloom which has extended across the English Channel to France and along the south coast.
Dorset authorities continue to work closely with the Food Standards Agency, the Marine Management Organisation and the Southern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority to monitor ASP levels in both whole and shucked scallops.
A spokesman for the Weymouth Port Health Authority said: “Whole scallop samples still show the toxin to be above the permitted level but encouragingly we are now able to say from shucked sample toxin results we have obtained, that shucking, ie removal of the white meat and roe under controlled conditions in an approved fisheries processing establishment, gives a product which is safe for consumption.
“However, catering premises are not suitable for the shucking process and it should not be undertaken in these premises.”
Portland Harbour, a classified production area for oysters and mussels, continues closed although levels have clearly dropped from what they were and it is hoped that the Closure may be able to be lifted shortly.
Chair of Weymouth Port Health Committee cllr Paul Kimber said: “This ASP event is the first one of notable toxicity which has occurred off the south coast since records started. We have therefore had to set up an information network and agreed protocols to deal with it, such that the public are protected and the scalloping industry suffers the minimum of disruption.
“Casual gatherers of any type of bivalve molluscs (clams, oysters, mussels, scallops etc) currently picked up off the Dorset coast are warned that they could still contain harmful toxin levels, although it is scallops that are the species of particular concern.”
ASP toxin can cause neurological symptoms if consumed in sufficient quantity.
These symptoms include dizziness, confusion, weakness, permanent short-term memory loss and in very rare cases, death If you have any questions about this algal toxin problem please contact Weymouth Port Health Authority on 01305 838432 or email Porthealth@weymouth.gov.uk