Oak Bay closed for shellfish harvesting

PORT TOWNSEND — Shellfish from Oak Bay have been found to have high levels of the toxin that causes paralytic shellfish poisoning, and the area has been closed by the state Department of Health.

Warning signs have been posted at public beaches, Mike Dawson of Jefferson County Environmental Health said Friday.

The closure includes 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.

“Toxin levels in Port Townsend Bay and the northern portion of Hood Canal have improved, and some recreational shellfish beaches there have reopened,” Dawson said.

”Kilisut Harbor and Mystery Bay are closed for butter and varnish clams only; other species there are now harvestable.”

In Clallam County, all beaches on the Strait are closed to shellfish harvesting.

Pacific Ocean beaches are closed for the season.

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 1-800-562-5632 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.