Biotoxins detected in Drayton Harbor

Published on Thu, May 22, 2008
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Biotoxins detected in Drayton Harbor

Marine biotoxins that cause paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) have been detected at dangerously high levels in shellfish samples collected from Drayton Harbor.

As a result, the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) has closed Drayton Harbor including all of Drayton Harbor and both the east and west sides of Semiahmoo Spit to the recreational harvest of shellfish.

Commercially harvested shellfish are sampled separately and products in local markets should be safe to eat.

Warning signs have been posted at beaches warning people not to collect shellfish from these areas. The closure includes clams, oysters, mussels, scallops and other species of molluscan shellfish. Crab is not included in the closure, but the “crab butter” should be discarded, and only the meat should be eaten.

PSP toxins are naturally occurring and are not destroyed by cooking or freezing. People can become ill after eating shellfish contaminated with the toxins produced by naturally occurring marine algae.

PSP intoxication can be life-threatening. 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 potentially death. If you experience these symptoms contact a health care provider. For extreme reactions call 911.

Often referred to as ‘Red Tide’ the algae that contain the toxins cannot be seen and must be detected using laboratory testing.

Recreational shellfish harvesters should check the DOH website at or call the DOH Biotoxin Hotline at 800/562-5632 before harvesting shellfish anywhere in Washington State.