EU funding for investigation into 'very high levels' of shellfish toxins after dog deaths
PUBLISHED: 15:55 16 May 2019 | UPDATED: 16:11 16 May 2019
Environmental authorities have been granted £250,000 of EU funding to investigate "very high levels" of shellfish toxins found in Norfolk and Suffolk, after a spate of dog deaths last year.
Dog owners in Norfolk told of their fears over walking their pets on the county's beaches after two fatalities occurred in Holkham and Felixstowe in January 2018.
The owners of a husky and a golden retriever said their dogs ingested sea life washed onto the shore before experiencing symptoms including vomiting, breathlessness and paralysis - which indicate paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP).
Nine total incidents of illness in dogs were reported during the same two-week period, sparking the multi-agency Operation Blake.
And last year scientists at the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, (Cefas), said they had found "strong evidence" linking the deaths to the shellfish toxins causing PSP.
Chemical detection tests for paralytic shellfish toxins (PST) were done on marine organisms in the area, and "very high levels" were found in starfish in Norfolk and Suffolk, with the same toxins found in post-mortem and vomit samples from one of the dogs.
Sine the initial incidents, 115 samples from the east coast have been collected, with no tests indicating toxins which could endanger consumers.
The toxins are usually found in molluscs, but the source of contamination is unknown and requires continued investigation.
In January 2019, the European Maritime and Fisheries Funding (EMFF) granted Cefas and the Eastern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (IFCA) almost £250,000 to "assess and mitigate against" the presence of the toxins in the east of England.
The EMFF, the funding arm of the EU's maritime and fishing policies, gave £248,892.79 towards the joint project, which will involve "laboratory testing of commercial shellfish samples".
A spokesperson for the project said: "The dog deaths occurred following consumption of marine organisms washed up on beaches after winter storms in early 2018.
"Over a two-week period, nine incidents of illnesses in dogs were reported, including two fatalities.
"Since then there have been no further incidences recorded."
The project's findings will be used to inform the monitoring regime and management of the area's commercial fisheries.
It will run until August 2021.