Strait of Juan De Fuca beaches from Low Point/Lyre River east to Discovery Bay have been opened to recreational harvesting of most shellfish.
Discovery Bay remains closed to all shellfish harvesting while Clallam County beaches are open for harvesting all but butter clams and varnish clams. Such types of clams retain biotoxins for a longer period of time than others.
In Jefferson County, all beaches but those on Discovery Bay are open for most shellfish harvesting except for butter clams and varnish clams. Those include Quilcene Bay, Port Ludlow and Mats Mats Bay and Port Townsend and Admiralty Inlet, as well as Kilisut Harbor including Mystery Bay and Fort Flagler State Park.
All ocean beaches are closed to recreational harvesting.
Shellfish harvested commercially are tested for toxin prior to distribution and should be safe to eat.
In January, all beaches from Low Point/Lyle River east through Discovery Bay were closed because of elevated amounts of marine biotoxin that causes the potentially fatal paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) found in tests of shellfish samples.
Shellfish closures were widespread and extended deep into the season, noted Michael Dawson, water quality manager for Jefferson County Public Health, in January. Having closures in the winter is atypical, he said.
Usually, algae blooms back off in winter and shellfish harvesting closures are unnecessary. But the latest season was particularly bad for PSP all over Puget Sound, including the North Olympic Peninsula, he said.
For instance, it was unusual for Discovery Bay to have toxins improve in the fall and then worsen in the winter, Dawson said.
PSP can be fatal. Symptoms 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 paralysis.
Anyone experiencing any of these symptoms after consuming shellfish should contact a health care provider immediately.
For extreme reactions call 9-1-1.
The DOH Shellfish Safety Map shows up-to-date information for recreational shellfish harvesting at www.doh.wa.gov/ShellfishSafety.htm. Members of the public also can call the Shellfish Safety Hotline at 800-562-5632.
Recreational harvesters can check Fish and Wildlife regulations and seasons at wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish or the shellfish rule change hotline at 1-866-880-5431.
Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at [email protected]