Publications: Peer-reviewed journal articles (by staff)

The risk to New Zealand shellfish aquaculture from paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) toxins

1 January, 2014

 MacKenzie LA 2014. The risk to New Zealand shellfish aquaculture from paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) toxins. New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research. In press.


New Zealand's reputation as a supplier of high quality products is vital to the national economy; international consumers are acutely aware of food safety issues and markets are increasingly demanding higher standards. Filter feeding bivalves are particularly sensitive to the nature of the environment in which they are grown, and quality assurance is a major preoccupation of the shellfish aquaculture industry. With exception of a couple of incidents, most notably the Gymnodinium catenatum blooms in 2000–2003, to date paralytic shellfish toxin (PST) contamination has not had an important effect on the economics and sustainability of the industry. However, the dinoflagellate species responsible for producing these toxins are not uncommon in NZ coastal phytoplankton communities, and it is important that awareness of the potential risk is maintained. This review summarises what we know about the causes and incidence of PST contamination from research and monitoring over the last 20 years since it was first identified in New Zealand. It describes the dynamics of major events and their consequences, and evaluates what is likely to happen in the future as aquaculture expands into new areas with known histories of this problem.

Key words: paralytic shellfish poisoning; PSP, saxitoxins; dinoflagellates; Alexandrium spp.; Gymnodinium catenatum; aquaculture