Marine biotoxins that cause paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) have continued to spread in local waters, according to officials, and the Washington State Department of Health has closed the northern …
Marine biotoxins that cause paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) have continued to spread in local waters, according to officials, and the Washington State Department of Health has closed the northern Hood Canal area to the recreational harvest of all species of shellfish.
According to an Aug. 25 announcement from Jefferson County Public Health, in JeffCo all recreational shellfish harvesting is closed north of the Hood Canal Bridge.
All previous closures this summer are still in effect, as well, and danger signs have been posted at public access points by Jefferson County Public Health, according to the announcement.
The closure includes clams, oysters, mussels, scallops and other species of molluscan shellfish.
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, officials instruct to clean crab thoroughly and discard the guts (sometimes called the “crab butter”).
Marine biotoxins are not destroyed by cooking or freezing.
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.
In most cases the algae that contain the toxins cannot be seen, and must be detected using laboratory testing, according to health officials. Therefore, recreational shellfish harvesters should check the map at www.doh.wa.gov/ShellfishSafety.htm or call the Biotoxin Hotline at 1-800-562-5632 before harvesting shellfish anywhere in Washington state.
Recreational harvesters should also check Fish and Wildlife regulations and seasons at wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish or the Shellfish Rule Change Hotline 1-866-880-5431.
Additionally, due to COVID-19, the State of Washington requires social distancing during all outdoor activities including recreational shellfish harvesting. If 6-foot distancing is not possible, wear masks.