Quilcene Bay is currently closed to shellfish harvesting

Beach the latest in Jefferson County to be closed due to PSP

PORT TOWNSEND — Harmful algae blooms continue to shut down recreational shellfish harvesting in Jefferson County.

Test results received this week of shellfish samples taken from Quilcene Bay found elevated levels of the potentially lethal marine biotoxin that causes paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP).

The spread is not a rare phenomenon, although “it is pretty late in the season to still be getting (algae) blooms,” said Michael Dawson, water quality manager for Jefferson County Public Health, on Tuesday. “Usually by October we’re starting to see blooms dissipate, but not this year.”

The state Department of Health has closed Quilcene Bay beaches for recreational shellfish harvest for all shellfish species.

The county Department of Public Health has placed danger signs at public access points warning people not to consume shellfish from this area.

Quilcene Bay is only the latest Jefferson County beach that has been closed due to PSP since the end of August.

In mid-September, Fort Flagler, Mystery Bay and Kilisut Harbor beaches were closed to recreational shellfish harvesting for all species.

The Mystery Bay sample result was 991 micrograms of toxin, which is more than 10 times above the action level of 80 micrograms, and the Fort Flagler sample was more than three times the action level, Dawson said then.

Oak Bay, Port Ludlow and Mats Mats Bay in East Jefferson were closed at the end of August to shellfish harvesting of butter and varnish clams because of the danger of PSP. Such clams can hold onto toxins for more than a year. Now those three areas are closed to all species of shellfish.

Discovery Bay and all Clallam County beaches on the Strait of Juan de Fuca also are closed to harvest of all species of shellfish.

Ocean beaches are closed for the season.

The closure extends to clams, oysters, mussels, scallops and other species of molluscan shellfish.

Crabs are not affected by the closure, Dawson said, noting that the winter crab season began on Saturday in many areas of the state.

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

Port Townsend Bay and the rest of Hood Canal outside of Quilcene Bay are clear for recreational harvesting, Dawson said.

Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning can be fatal for both humans and animals. Illness is caused by eating shellfish contaminated with toxins from the naturally occurring marine plankton Alexandrium.

Symptoms of 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 paralysis.

Anyone experiencing any of these symptoms after consuming shellfish should contact a health care provider immediately. For extreme reactions, call 911.

The DOH Shellfish Safety Map has up-to-date information for recreational shellfish harvesting at www.doh.wa.gov/ShellfishSafety.htm.

Recreational harvesters can check state Fish and Wildlife regulations and seasons at wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish or the Shellfish Rule Change hotline 1-866-880-5431.

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