Shellfish ban lifted for northern Whatcom

Published on Wed, Nov 13, 2013
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The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) has lifted the biotoxin closure on all Whatcom County beaches located north and west of Sandy Point. Beaches located south and east of Sandy Point remain closed to the harvest of all molluscan shellfish. 

This action results from paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) and diarrhetic shellfish poisoning (DSP) biotoxins dropping to safe levels on northern Whatcom County beaches other than those mentioned. 

Shellfish sold in restaurants and markets are tested before distribution and are safe to eat. 

Molluscan shellfish include clams, mussels, oysters and scallops. Mussels and varnish clams usually contain the highest concentration of toxins. 

Cooking or freezing will not destroy the toxins. While crab meat itself is not affected by biotoxins, “crab butter” and crab entrails can harbor biotoxins and should always be discarded. 

Biotoxins are sometimes present in algae that are eaten by molluscan shellfish. The toxins cannot be seen, and must be detected by laboratory testing. Therefore, always check the DOH website at or call the DOH Biotoxin Hotline at 800/562-5632 before harvesting shellfish anywhere in Washington state. 

PSP intoxication can be life threatening. Nine cases of PSP intoxication were reported in Washington state in 2012. Symptoms of PSP intoxication may appear within minutes or hours. 

PSP symptoms may begin with tingling lips and tongue, followed by difficulty breathing and potentially death. 

If you experience these symptoms seek immediate medical attention. For extreme reactions call 911.