Crays may be off limits
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.