Christchurch whitebaiters are being warned against fishing in
or around the Avon/ Otakaro River, Heathcote/ Opawaho River or Avon-Heathcote/
Otakaro-Opawaho Estuary/Ihutai this season because of sewage contamination.
Canterbury Medical Officer of Health, Dr Alistair Humphrey
says there have been warnings in place regarding the gathering of fish or
shellfish in these areas since the February earthquakes.
“With the whitebait season beginning on August 15, it is
important that local whitebaiters continue to heed the warnings against
fishing,” Dr Humphrey says.
Earthquake damage to Christchurch’s sewerage and wastewater
systems means there are ongoing discharges of untreated sewage into the rivers
and estuary, which will continue for some time.
Dr Humphrey says any whitebait caught in these rivers will
also be contaminated and could make people very sick if eaten.
“Although people think whitebait is safe because it is
cooked, the water in which the whitebait is surrounded and then subsequently
frozen will contain sewage and can contaminate your kitchen and utensils,” he
“You may not get sick from eating the whitebait patty but you
could get sick from other food prepared in the same kitchen. Whitebaiters also
put themselves at risk if they enter sewage contaminated waterways.”
Most ill-health effects are minor and short-lived but there
is the potential for more serious diseases such as hepatitis A, giardia,
cryptosporosis, campylobacter and salmonella, which can cause serious illness
such as liver and kidney failure, Dr Humphrey says.
Meanwhile, it is still safe for people to fish for whitebait
in the Waimakiriri River, Halswell/ Hurutini River, Styx / Parakaunui River and
any rivers north of the Waimakiriri or south of Lyttelton Harbour.
“We ask for people to notify Community and Public Health if
they see anyone whitebaiting in the Avon/ Otakaro or Heathcote/ Opawaho rivers,”
Dr Humphrey says.
Public are advised:
Not drink water from the rivers or
Not to use the river or estuary
for recreational use, including swimming or boating.
To avoid physical contact with
water in these waterways.
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