BELLINGHAM, WA —Unsafe levels of paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) biotoxin have been detected in molluscan shellfish on beaches in Whatcom County. As a result, the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) has closed recreational harvest for all species of molluscan shellfish on most Whatcom County beaches. Lummi Island, Hale Passage, Lummi Bay, and all beaches from Sandy Point north to the Canadian border including Point Roberts are closed.
Point Roberts beaches are closed as a precaution until shellfish samples can be obtained to determine biotoxin levels.
Portage Bay, Samish Bay, and Bellingham Bay south to the Skagit County border remain open. The Whatcom County Health Department will be collecting additional samples each week to monitor biotoxin levels. We will notify the public when biotoxin levels have dropped below the closure limit.
Molluscan shellfish include clams, mussels, oysters, and scallops. Mussels usually contain the highest toxin concentration. PSP and other naturally occurring biotoxins are not destroyed by cooking or freezing. Crab meat is not affected, but “crab butter” and crab entrails can harbor biotoxins so they should be discarded.
Shellfish sold in restaurants and markets have been tested before distribution and are safe to eat.
Algae that contain the toxins cannot be seen, and must be detected by laboratory testing. Therefore, always check the DOH website at http://www.doh.wa.gov/ehp/sf/biotoxin.htm or call the DOH Biotoxin Hotline at 1-800-562-5632 before harvesting shellfish anywhere in Washington State.
Written and provided by: Melissa Morin, Communications Specialist Whatcom County Health Department firstname.lastname@example.org