Discovery Bay, Oak Bay opened to shellfish harvesting

PORT TOWNSEND — Discovery Bay in Jefferson and Clallam counties is now open for all harvesting of shellfish except for butter clams and varnish clams, while Oak Bay is open for harvesting of all types of shellfish.

The bays had been closed to recreational harvesting because of high levels of the toxin that causes paralytic shellfish poisoning, which can be fatal.

All beaches on the Strait of Juan de Fuca in Clallam County — with the exception of Discovery Bay — are closed to harvesting of all species of shellfish.

In Jefferson County, beaches closed to harvesting of all species of shellfish are on the Strait from Fort Worden west to the Clallam County line, Admiralty Inlet from Fort Worden south to Kinney Point on Marrowstone Island, and Port Ludlow and Mats Mats Bay.

Ocean beaches are under an extended seasonal closure.

Closures include clams, oysters, mussels, scallops and other species of molluscan shellfish. Crab meat is not known to contain the biotoxin, but the guts can contain unsafe levels. To be safe, the crab should be cleaned thoroughly with the guts discarded.

Shellfish harvested commercially are tested for toxins prior to distribution and are safe to eat, according to the Department of Health.

Marine biotoxins are not destroyed by cooking or freezing.

People can become ill from eating shellfish contaminated with the naturally occurring marine algae containing toxins harmful to humans.

Symptoms of paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) can appear within minutes or hours and usually begin with tingling lips and tongue, moving to the hands and feet, followed by difficulty breathing and potentially death.

Anyone experiencing these symptoms should contact a health care provider immediately. For extreme reactions, call 9-1-1.

For more information about the closures, go to http://tinyurl.com/PDN-ShellfishToxin.

Check the Department of Health website or call the biotoxin hotline at 800-562-5632 before harvesting shellfish.

Recreational harvesters also can check Fish and Wildlife regulations and seasons at www.wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish or call the shellfish rule change hotline at 866-880-5431.

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