Project number: 2012-060
Project Status:
Budget expenditure: $149,085.00
Principal Investigator: Catherine McLeod
Organisation: SARDI Food Safety and Innovation
Project start/end date: 7 Apr 2013 - 14 Jun 2013


In October 2012 a shipment of mussels derived from the east coast of Tasmania was rejected by Japanese import authorities due to the presence of unacceptable levels of paralytic shellfish toxins (PSTs). Mussel samples were collected and tested from the implicated consignment and harvest area and it became apparent that the mussels had bioaccumulated PSTs through feeding on a bloom of the dinoflagellate algae Alexandrium tamarense group IV.

Following the initial discovery, additional seawater and bivalve samples revealed the presence of A. tamarense cells and PSTs in bivalves at several sites between Eddystone Point and Marion Bay. By early November 2012 it was revealed that scallops and rocklobsters were also impacted by PSTs and concerns were raised that other fishery products, such as sea urchins, abalone and periwinkles may also be implicated.

The presence of the PSTs at high levels in mussels represented a major breakdown in the TSQAP management plan for biotoxins in the shellfish industry. It has also raised concerns from fisheries and health personnel regarding the potential need for marine biotoxin management plans for other fisheries products, such as rocklobsters. The full impact of the algal bloom is not known at this time, however some estimates suggest cost to the bivalve sector (including multiplier effect) of $7 million (mussels = $2million; oysters = $2 million; scallops = $3million) and to the rocklobster industry of around $4-5 million (80 – 100 tonnes behind at time of writing).

Given the loss of revenue, costs of rehabilitation and damage to the industry’s reputation as a safe producer of seafood, a review is required to determine the key factors that led to the non-compliance event, and critically, to learn from this event so as to assist in the development of strategies to reduce the probability of future events occurring and impact.


1. What factors (e.g. biological, monitoring faults) led to the non-compliance event?
2. What have been the impacts of the non-compliance event on the Tasmanian shellfish industry and its stakeholders?
3. What similarities can be drawn from other non-compliance events domestically or internationally?
4. What are the key improvements that can be made to the TSQAP Biotoxin Management Plan to reduce the impact (likelihood and severity) of future non-compliance events?
5. What lessons can other bivalve producing states learn from this experience?
6. Is there a need to strengthen the ASQAP manual of operations around biotoxins?
7. What can the other fishery sectors (e.g. rocklobster and abalone) learn from the bivalve experience to reduce the impact of algal bloom incidents?
8. What can be done to improve communication and incident response for future events with nation-wide impacts?

Final report

ISBN: 978-0-646-90570-9
Authors: Alan Campbell David Hudson Catherine McLeod Catriona Nicholls and Andrew Pointon
Final Report • 2013-08-01 • 4.98 MB


During October 2012, a shipment of blue mussels (Mytilus galloprovincialis) derived from the east coast of Tasmania was tested by the Japanese import authorities (Ministry of Health Labour and Welfare; MHLW) and found to be contaminated with unacceptable levels (0.8mg/kg) of paralytic shellfish toxins (PST). Through investigation by regulators and industry it was confirmed that mussels had bioaccumulated PST through feeding on a bloom of the dinoflagellate alga Alexandrium tamarense.

After the presence of PST in mussels was identified, additional seawater and bivalve sampling of sites spanning most of the east coast of Tasmania confirmed the presence of A. tamarense cells and PST in shellfish (oysters and mussels) at several sites between Eddystone Point and Marion Bay (Appendix 3). During early November 2012, it was confirmed that scallops, clams and rock lobsters also had bioaccumulated significant levels of PST. Other fishery products (including abalone, periwinkles, sea urchins, banded morwong, calamari, flathead and giant crabs) were tested and found to comply (i.e. below) with the maximum limit for PST.

This project was initiated in response to a request from key industry and government stakeholders for an external review of the non-compliance event. To facilitate the scoping of the Review, SafeFish undertook a series of stakeholder consultations in November 2012 to discuss the terms of reference (ToR) with the following industry and regulatory agency stakeholders.

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