The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) has closed Birch Bay to recreational shellfish harvesting after unsafe levels of paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) biotoxin were detected in molluscan shellfish in the area.
Beaches affected by the closure include all beaches from Point Whitehorn north to Birch Point.
Molluscan shellfish include clams, mussels, oysters and scallops. PSP and other naturally occurring biotoxins are not destroyed by cooking or freezing. Shellfish sold in restaurants and markets have been tested before distribution and are safe to eat.
The toxins cannot be seen and are detected by laboratory testing. Therefore, the DOH encourages would-be shellfish harvesters to always check the DOH website, doh.wa.gov/ehp/sf/biotoxin, or call the DOH biotoxin hotline at 800/562-5632 before harvesting.
Nine cases of PSP intoxication were reported in Washington in 2012. Symptoms may appear within minutes or hours, and usually begin with tingling lips and tongue, which may be followed by difficulty breathing, and potentially death. If you experience these symptoms seek immediate medical attention. For extreme reactions call 911.