Crays may be off lim­its

Tasmanian Country - - NEWS -

RECORD toxin lev­els caused by East Coast al­gal blooms could pre­vent peo­ple from catch­ing rock lob­ster in the area this sum­mer, with fish­ers ea­gerly await­ing re­sults from shell­fish toxin sam­pling.

In­sti­tute for Marine and Antarc­tic Stud­ies sci­en­tists be­gan test­ing rock lob­ster for par­a­lytic shell­fish tox­ins at half a dozen East Coast biotoxin zones this week, with 40 to 50 sam­ples sent to Syd­ney for anal­y­sis.

IMAS sci­en­tist Gus­taaf Hal­le­gra­eff said the liver of each lob­ster would be sam­pled as that was where the tox­ins were con­cen­trated.

This year’s eastern recre­ational sea­son opens on No- vem­ber 18 and the com­mer­cial fish­ery opens on Novem­ber 27.

How­ever, mus­sel sam­ples have shown such high toxin lev­els along the whole of the East Coast that those dates could be at risk.

Shell­fish are con­sid­ered safe to eat if the toxin lev­els are 0.8mg or less per kilo­gram of flesh, with rock lob­ster, oys­ters, mus­sels, clams, abalone, scal­lops, pipis, cock­les and wedge shells all on the cur­rent alert list.

How­ever, mon­i­tor­ing of wild mus­sel sam­ples at Bicheno re­vealed toxin lev­els of 150mg per kilo­gram, while Spring Bay had 93mg and Black­man Bay 22mg.

Some biotoxin zones dur­ing the 2015-2016 eastern re­gion cray­fish sea­sons were closed from Novem­ber un­til Jan­uary be­cause of toxin lev­els, and the out­look is not good for 2017-2018.

“We’ve had prob­lems like this be­fore but the lev­els were a lot less,” Prof. Hal­le­graef said.

“The lev­els are 200 times above the healthy lev­els.”

Tas­ma­nian As­so­ci­a­tion for Recre­ational Fish­ing chief Mark Niko­lai said fish­ers were get­ting anx­ious about be­ing able to catch lob­ster as the sea­son rapidly ap­proached.

About 20,000 peo­ple hold fish­ing li­cences and can add rock lob­ster dive and pot con­di­tions.

In the west­ern re­gion the recre­ational rock lob­ster sea­son has started and the com­mer­cial sea­son opens on Novem­ber 15.

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