The marine environment supports a range of microscopic plants called phytoplankton or algae. Some algae produce natural chemicals that are toxic to humans. These toxins do not represent a problem in algal cells as the toxin concentrations are low and not in a form consumed by humans. However they may be concentrated in the tissues of filter feeding shellfish (eg oysters, mussels, scallops and clams) thus providing a means by which high and potentially fatal concentrations of toxin may be ingested by humans. The shellfish themselves are relatively insensitive to the toxins.
The toxins produced by algae can cause four significant syndromes when concentrated by shellfish and consumed by humans: Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP), Diarrhetic Shellfish Poisoning (DSP), Neurotoxic Shellfish Poisoning (NSP) and Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning (ASP). The symptoms of these syndromes range from mild illness to death in susceptible consumers.
The TSQAP has developed a biotoxin management plan to better protect shellfish consumers from the risk of biotoxin poisoning, The biotoxin management plan focuses heavily on monitoring for biotoxins in meats and is supported by algal monitoring and chemical testing as required.
TSQAP Biotoxin Management Plan (693Kb)
Please note: the Tasmanian Shellfish Quality Assurance Program (TSQAP) has now become part of the Shellfish Market Access Program (ShellMAP) and has been renamed ShellMAP Regulatory Services. This change will be reflected in documents as they are reviewed.
A weekly update of biotoxin flesh and algal sampling results for commercial bivalve shellfish growing areas in Tasmania:
Tasmanian Biotoxin News (506Kb)
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