Most Juan de Fuca beaches closed to shellfish harvesting

OLYMPIA — Recreational shellfish harvesting is closed on all beaches on the Strait of Juan de Fuca from Cape Flattery east to Dungeness Spit and on Discovery and Sequim bays.

The state Department of Health announced the closures, which are for all species of shellfish, on Friday because of finding increased levels of the marine biotoxin that causes paralytic shellfish poisoning in shellfish samples.

Beaches on Dungeness Bay are open for harvesting of all species. Mystery Bay and Kilisut Harbor, including Fort Flagler, are open to species except butter and varnish clams.

Ocean beaches are closed for sport harvesting from April 1 to Oct. 31 each year.

Shellfish harvested commercially are tested for toxin prior to distribution and should be safe to eat, the state said.

The closure does not apply to shrimp.

Crab meat also is not known to contain toxins but the guts can harbor unsafe levels so they must be thoroughly cleaned.

Species that are not to be harvested are clams — including geoduck — oysters, mussels and other invertebrates such as the moon snail.

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, the state said. For extreme reactions call 9-1-1.

Toxins cannot be detected by sight or smell. Neither cooking nor freezing destroys biotoxins.

Recreational shellfish harvesters can get the latest information before they leave for the beach by visiting www.doh.wa.gov or calling 800-562-5632.

The emergency regulation hotline is 866-880-5431.

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