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  • Rights: University of Waikato. All Rights Reserved.
    Published 4 September 2012 Referencing Hub media

    Dr Shaun Ogilvie, Dave Hamon and Larn Wilkinson tell us about their work in a collaborative study involving Cawthron, the Hauraki Māori Trust Board and local iwi. The focus of this study is to determine the risk of tetrodotoxin in seafood that people are harvesting.


    In 2009 when the toxic sea slugs were discovered on the beaches, one of the first groups that were concerned about this were tangata whenua – Māori. They were concerned about whether the toxin tetrodotoxin could be in seafood, and so we made a general approach to the iwi in the region around the Hauraki Gulf, and the Hauraki Māori Trust Board were very keen to join in a collaborative study. And together with the Cawthron Institute, we looked for funding and were able to start doing this study.

    The key concerns for the Hauraki Māori Trust Board initially was really just the risk of there being tetrodotoxin in the seafood that people were harvesting and what the risks of tetrodotoxin would be for people that are consuming the seafood – the kaimoana.

    To address the concerns of the Hauraki Māori Trust Board in terms of the tetrodotoxin, we worked together to set up a sampling survey of kaimoana species. And we actually set up one of their local people, Dave Hamon, who’s been out sampling pretty much all the kaimoana species that are most commonly eaten. He’s been sampling those every month and couriering them same day to Nelson where they’ve been analysed for tetrodotoxin content.

    So I’m just here just employed by the Trust Board collecting these samples for this sea slug operation.

    I’m gonna point out some of the kai that we usually harvest for kai and that – every day, people come down the beach – and usually it’s pipis, I’ve got samples of these, and of course we’ve got the oysters, the tio, that’s another favourite kai. Then we got the cockles, the tuangis, and then of course there’s kūtai here, mussels,

    You got ones like starfish that I’m also sampling as well and of course you’ve got the pūpū atamarama, the cats’ eyes. Some people do eat these.

    In terms of the results of the study, we have a hui with the local people. We reported back that we’d had positive results in the pipi samples and also reported back a risk analysis around the amount that was in the pipi samples. We said to them to really not eat a whole lot in one go, kind of 500 grams at the most. And they were quite happy that was within the realms of what people would be eating anyway.

    The collaboration with Cawthron is huge for us, because from what we’ve seen already from the studies they’ve done, we’ve identified the poison when it’s most prevalent, when it’s not so common amongst our shores. And because of how toxic it is, it starts to show us that this is important not only to the people who use the moana but also for our kaimoana. We’ve seen it go across into bivalves as well, which is of high concern because our people eat a lot of bivalves such as the pipi and so forth. But from here, if we can increase the funding or get more funding to continue this, we’ll then be able to hopefully identify a way of starting to control this and slow it down amongst our moana.

    Sarah Hailes, NIWA Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported
    Wildfish Export Ltd
    Hauraki Māori Trust Board

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