Shellfish.

Community members are still being advised not to eat shellfish taken from the St Kilda to Williamstown area after a marine algal bloom was detected off Port Melbourne six weeks ago.

A routine sample in January found high levels of the naturally occurring algae Alexandrium minutum which can cause toxins to accumulate in shellfish like mussels, pipis, oysters and scallops, and to a lesser extent fish.Since then levels have remained the same but concerns over the toxin’s shellfish remains.

The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) Regional Manager, Natural Environment Programs, Merryn Kelly said: “The combination of no rain and hot weather means the algal bloom has not yet cleared.

“While there are already restrictions on collecting shellfish in this area, as a precaution we want to let the community know that it may not be safe to eat them.

“We are also advising anglers that any fish caught in the Hobsons Bay area should be cleaned and washed in clean water and the internal organs removed of before eating.

“It is still safe to eat any fish and shellfish brought from shops or supplied by commercial fisheries.

“We’re advising swimmers and water users to avoid contact with algae-affected water, which may look murky or discoloured. If contact occurs, wash with clean water.

“The warm weather combined with recent rainfall has resulted in the appearance of the bloom.

“The bloom was discovered by the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) while it was conducting routine water quality monitoring of the Bay.“We are undertaking further sampling in the coming weeks to assess the Hobsons Bay bloom and will continue to monitor the situation.

"The algae Alexandrium minutum occurs naturally at low, non-toxic levels in the bay throughout the year but has multiplied in the recent weather conditions.

The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning is the lead agency in coordinating the Victorian Government’s response to marine algal blooms and works closely with the EPA on issues affecting water quality in Port Phillip Bay.

There are restrictions on collecting shellfish because all animals and plants that live in the intertidal zone are critical parts of the food chain.Removal of any invertebrate animals from this zone may seem harmless, but it represents a loss of food for other species and is therefore prohibited in Port Phillip Bay and restricted in all other Victorian Waters. Refer to the Victorian Fisheries Authority website vfa.vic.gov.au

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