Biotoxin Causes Recreational Shellfish Closure for Birch Bay

Post date: May 23, 2014 4:48:40 PM

The Whatcom County Health Department issued the following press release. Unsafe levels of paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) biotoxin have been detected in molluscan shellfish on some beaches in northern Whatcom County. As a result, the Washington State Department of Health has closed recreational shellfish harvest on beaches from Point Whitehorn north to Birch Point.

Molluscan shellfish include clams, mussels, oysters, and scallops. Mussels usually contain the highest toxin concentration. PSP and other naturally occurring biotoxins are not destroyed by cooking or freezing. Crab meat is not affected by PSP, but “crab butter” and crab entrails can harbor biotoxins so they should be discarded. Shellfish sold in restaurants and markets have been tested before distribution and are safe to eat.

Algae that contain 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 1-800-562-5632 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 usually begin with tingling lips and tongue and may be followed by difficulty breathing, and potentially death. If you experience these symptoms seek immediate medical attention. For extreme reactions call 911.