Recreational shellfish harvest closures have been lifted on most Whatcom County beaches following a drop in biotoxin levels.
Closures have been lifted on all county beaches except Bellingham Bay, Chuckanut Bay and Larrabee State Park after shellfish samples collected by the Whatcom County Health Department showed a recent decrease in paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) biotoxin levels.
The announcement was made in a November 20 press release issued by the health department, which noted that algae containing marine biotoxins cannot be seen and must be detected by laboratory testing.
“During a biotoxin event, mussels and varnish clams usually contain the highest toxin concentration,” stated the release. “PSP and other naturally occurring biotoxins are not destroyed by cooking or freezing. Crab meat is not affected, but ‘crab butter’ and crab entrails can harbor biotoxins so they should always be discarded.”
The release noted that biotoxin levels can change rapidly, so shellfish harvesters are advised to always check for current shellfish closures on the Washington Shellfish Safety Map (doh.wa.gov/shellfishsafety) or to call the DOH biotoxin hotline at 800/562-5632 before harvesting shellfish anywhere in Washington state.
“Before harvesting, also remember to check harvest seasons and licensing requirements,” said the release. “Consult the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife for information about licensing and fishing regulations at wdfw.wa.gov.”
Shellfish sold in restaurants and retail markets have been tested before distribution and are safe to eat, said the health department’s release.