The state Department of Health has closed beaches in southern Whatcom County to recreational shellfish harvesting because of unsafe levels of the biotoxin that causes paralytic shellfish poisoning.
The ban affects beaches from Sandy Point south to the Whatcom-Skagit county border, including Lummi Island and Larrabee State Park.
The state put the ban into place after tests detected unsafe levels of the biotoxin in molluscan shellfish on some beaches in Bellingham Bay.
Molluscan shellfish such as clams, mussels, oysters and scallops shouldn't be harvested until further notice. Mussels usually contain the highest concentration of toxin, health officials said.
Crab meat isn't affected, but "crab butter" and crab entrails can harbor the biotoxin, which are not destroyed by cooking or freezing.
Shellfish in stores and restaurants are tested for marine toxins before going to market and are safe to eat.
Paralytic shellfish poisoning can be life-threatening.
Reach Kie Relyea at 360-715-2234 or email@example.com.