PORT TOWNSEND — The marine algae that produces paralytic shellfish poisoning in shellfish are declining in many areas of Jefferson County, while restrictions stay in place in Clallam County, according to state Department of Health.
In response to recent testing, Department of Health (DOH) removed the biotoxin closure at certain recreational shellfish harvesting beaches in Oak Bay, Squamish Harbor, and Dabob Bay, it was announced Friday.
In Quilcene Bay, harvesting butter and varnish clams still is restricted because the paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) toxins persist in these species longer, and they are unsafe to consume.
Clallam County beaches on the Strait of Juan de Fuca are closed to the recreational harvesting of all shellfish species from Cape Flattery to the Jefferson County line.
Also closed to the harvesting of all species of shellfish are Sequim Bay and Discovery Bay.
All ocean beaches are closed to recreational harvesting.
Shellfish harvested commercially are tested for toxin prior to distribution and should be safe to eat.
Crab meat is not known to contain the biotoxin, but the guts can contain unsafe levels. To be safe, clean crab thoroughly and discard the guts (sometimes called the “crab butter”).
Marine biotoxins are not destroyed by cooking or freezing. In most cases, they cannot be seen or otherwise detected without a laboratory test.
People can become ill from eating shellfish contaminated with the naturally occurring marine algae containing toxins harmful to humans. Symptoms of PSP can appear within minutes or hours and usually begins 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 911.
Public access points are posted with warning signs and the DOH Shellfish Safety Map shows up-to-date information for recreational shellfish harvesting at www.doh.wa.gov/ShellfishSafety.htm.
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.