BELLINGHAM, Wash. — Officials with Whatcom County Health Department announced today, October 6th, that unsafe levels of paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) biotoxin have been detected in all beaches in northern Whatcom County from Sandy Point north to the Canadian border including Point Roberts. Biotoxin testing has already closed beaches in southern areas of Whatcom County. This means the entire county is now under a recreational shellfish harvesting closure.
Molluscan shellfish include clams, mussels, oysters and scallops. Mussels usually contain the highest toxin concentration. Paralytic shellfish poisoning and other naturally occurring biotoxins are not destroyed by cooking or freezing. Crab meat is not affected, but “crab butter” and crab entrails can harbor biotoxins and should always be discarded.
Shellfish sold in restaurants and markets have been tested before distribution and are safe to eat.
PSP biotoxin can cause severe illness and death. Symptoms include numbness and tingling of lips and tongue, which may begin within minutes of eating toxic shellfish or may take an hour or two to develop. Symptoms may progress to tingling of fingers and toes and then loss of control of arms and legs, followed by difficulty in breathing. Some people feel nauseous or experience a sense of floating. If a person consumes enough toxin, muscles of the chest and abdomen become paralyzed, including muscles used for breathing, and the victim can suffocate. Death from Paralytic Shellfish Poison has occurred in less than 30 minutes.
Always check the DOH website at www.doh.wa.gov/shellfishsafety or call the Washington Department of Health Biotoxin Hotline at 1-800-562-5632 before harvesting shellfish anywhere in Washington State.