Jefferson County Public Health announced Aug. 29 shellfish harvesting is closed at Fort Flagler, Mystery Bay and Kilisut Harbor due to unhealthy levels of marine biotoxins in shellfish.
The marine biotoxins, which cause Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning, have been detected at lethal levels in shellfish samples, with PSP concentration levels rising more than 1,700 micrograms per 100 grams of fish. The harvesting closure level is 80 micrograms.
Scallops, mussels, clams and oysters as well as any other species of mollusk shellfish can be contaminated with PSP. Crab does not contain biotoxins, but Jefferson County Public Health advises it should be cleaned thoroughly before consumption. PSP cannot be destroyed by cooking or freezing shellfish.
According to the Washington State Department of Health, the consumption of shellfish at such high levels of PSP can be deadly. Symptoms include tingling of the lips and tongue, which can then progress to numbness in fingers, toes and then to the arms and legs, along with difficulty breathing. The Department of Health advises anyone experiencing symptoms should contact their health care provider immediately, or call 911 if the reaction is extreme.
Excessive marine biotoxins in shellfish occur when there are harmful algal blooms in the water. Shellfish are filter feeders, filtering in water that contains algae and other food particles. When they eat the algae producing biotoxins, it accumulates in the shellfish tissue. The algae blooms have been linked to rising global temperatures, as more blooms occur during the warm summer months, according to the Department of Health.
Meanwhile, the Department of Health announced on Aug. 30 that because of increased boat waste pump out systems and the implementation of a “No Discharge Zone” throughout the Puget Sound certain portions of commercial shellfish harvesting areas around 20 marinas would no longer classified as prohibited.
Because of the improved sewage management, the Department of Health has removed shellfish harvest restrictions on nearly 700 acres of commercial shellfish beds.
In Jefferson County, 144 acres were impacted by the restriction removal, allowing an increase in commercial shellfish harvesting areas in Cape George, Fisherman Harbor, Pleasant Harbor, Port Hudson, Port Townsend and Quilcene.
For more information on shellfish harvesting restrictions visit the Department of Health’s website, https://www.doh.wa.gov.