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October 13, 2017

Oak Bay Closed Due to Marine Biotoxins; Other Areas Open

Port Townsend – Shellfish from Oak Bay have been found to have high levels of the toxin that causes paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP), and the area has been closed by the Washington State Department of Health. Warning signs have been posted at public beaches. The closure includes clams, oysters, mussels, scallops and other species of molluscan shellfish.

Toxin levels in Port Townsend Bay and the northern portion of Hood Canal have improved, and some recreational shellfish beaches there have re-opened. Kilisut Harbor and Mystery Bay are closed for butter and varnish clams only; other species there are now harvestable.

Crabmeat is not known to contain the biotoxin but the guts can contain unsafe levels. To be safe, clean crab thoroughly and discard the guts (also known as the “butter”). Shellfish harvested commercially are tested for toxins prior to distribution and are safe to eat.

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. Therefore, recreational shellfish harvesters should check the DOH Shellfish Safety Map at doh.wa.gov/ShellfishSafety.htm or call the DOH 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 call the Shellfish Rule Change Hotline 1-866-880-5431.