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Contamination closes oyster production Cowell

AUSTRALIA - Franklin Harbour has been closed to oyster farmers this month following a series of tests that revealed raised pinnatoxin levels in the bay's shellfish.

This is the second time this year the bay has been closed due to the detection of pinnatoxins under the South Australian Shellfish Quality Assurance Program (SASQAP).
However, Primary Industries and Resources SA (PIRSA) scientists are still unsure as to the cause or ramifications of the toxin's presence in local waters.

Little is known about pinnatoxins, and there is no recorded evidence of them causing illness in humans, but their presence in local oysters makes them ineligible for export.

"Because oysters are filter feeders they can concentrate toxins if they are present in the environment," said David Cunliffe, principal water quality advisor for the SA Department of Health.

"Pinnatoxins are an emerging, naturally-occurring toxin that shellfish producers have become more aware of during the past year. The exact source of the toxin remains undecided because the conditions under which it appears is also unknown. "We actually don't have a great deal of information on pinnatoxin and its impacts on human health so this closure is precautionary. Primary industries are undertaking investigations into the toxins to see if we can gather further information," said Mr Cunliffe

Peter Williams, chair of the Cowell-based oyster producer Aqaoysters, said local producers are confident the presence of pinnatoxins is not a serious issue.

"All oysters grown here have been grown in absolutely perfect conditions, to the highest standards," Mr Williams said. "But there are some greater hurdles that apply for different reasons in our export markets - not health reasons, market reasons, designed to protect internal markets in different countries. We have absolute confidence that all the oyster growers on Eyre Peninsula grow to perfect health and consistent quality."

At the moment, only Franklin Harbour has been affected by the ban. The area is the third-largest oyster growing area in the State and the closure affects 25 leases.