Red tide closes Whatcom beaches

Published on Wed, Oct 21, 2009
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State health officials have closed all Whatcom County beaches to shellfish harvest after marine biotoxins that cause paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) were detected at dangerously high levels.

Shellfish samples collected from north Puget Sound were found to contain as much as 100 times higher than the closure level of “red tide” toxins.

All of Whatcom County and all of San Juan County, Deception Pass, Fidalgo Bay, Samish Bay, Sinclair, and Cypress Islands in Skagit County are closed to the harvest of clams, oysters, mussels, scallops, geoduck, and other mollusks.

State health officials said the biotoxins are not destroyed by cooking or freezing and can be life threatening. As a result, anyone who’s recently harvested shellfish from these areas should not eat them and instead throw them out.
Crab isn’t included in the closure, but “crab butter” should be discarded.

Symptoms of shellfish poisoning can appear within minutes or hours of eating contaminated shellfish and usually begin with tingling lips and tongue, moving to the hands and feet, followed by difficulty breathing, and possibly death.

For local information and updates about these closures, call the Whatcom County Health Department at 360/676-6724.