The NSW Food Authority has warned the public that the presence of an algal bloom in Sydney’s Botany Bay has made the local shellfish unfit for consumption.
The algae detected produces toxins which cause paralytic shellfish poisoning – the symptoms of which include tingling in the mouth, ‘pins and needles’, unsteadiness and nausea.
The Authority advised consumers not to eat oysters, abalone, mussels and clams as the toxins persist even after cooking. Crabs and sea urchins have also been taken off the menu for a number of months until the all clear is given.
While there is no mention of what caused the toxic algal bloom, the incident has renewed local calls for chemical giant Orica to properly dispose of thousands of tonnes of industrial waste stored on the Bays’ shore.
The waste is a toxic fungicide known as Hexachlorobenzene, or HCB. A known carcinogen, HCB persists in the environment, meaning it does not readily breakdown and in aquatic environments tends to accumulate in species. First produced in 1945, HCB is now banned around the world and has been linked to liver disease and other health issues.
Botany Bay has a long history as an industrial centre, but after many years of production, adverse environmental impacts have come to the fore. Since 1942, Orica’s site has been manufacturing industrial and chemical products including fertilisers, PVC insulation, detergents and chlorine. The groundwater beneath the site is contaminated and Orica is principally responsible for ensuring the toxins are contained and prevented from entering Botany Bay.