FERNDALE, Wash. — Whatcom County Health Department announced yesterday most Whatcom County beaches, including Lummi Island, Hale Passage, Lummi Bay, and all beaches from Sandy Point north to the Canadian border including Point Roberts are now closed to recreational harvest for all species of molluscan shellfish (e.g. oysters, clams, mussels, and scallops) due to the presence of paralytic shellfish poisoning biotoxin (PSP).
Portage Bay, Samish Bay and Bellingham Bay south to the Skagit County border remain open. Point Roberts beaches are closed as a precaution until shellfish samples can be obtained to determine biotoxin levels.
If you harvest molluscan shellfish from local beaches, Health Department officials say to be aware:
- PSP biotoxin can be deadly – don’t risk your life! Avoid harvesting all species of molluscan shellfish during a closure.
- Mussels and varnish clams usually contain more toxin than other species during a closure.
- Biotoxin levels in clams and oysters are not routinely monitored until toxin levels in mussels drop. Assume all molluscan shellfish are unsafe in the closure zone.
- Biotoxins are not destroyed by cooking.
Shellfish sold in stores and restaurants are tested before shipping and are safe to consume.
Whatcom County Health Department officials say they will be collecting additional samples each week to monitor biotoxin levels. They will notify the public when biotoxin levels have returned below the closure limit.
Biotoxin levels can change rapidly officials warn. Shellfish harvesters are advised to “Know Before You Dig” by checking current biotoxin and pollution closures at the DOH website or by calling the DOH Biotoxin Hotline at 1-800-562-5632 before harvesting shellfish anywhere in Washington State.