The state Department of Health has closed all beaches in Whatcom County to recreational shellfish harvesting because of unsafe levels of the biotoxin that causes paralytic shellfish poisoning.
The notice expands the closure that had been in effect since mid-September for beaches in the southern part of the county, from Sandy Point to the Whatcom-Skagit county border, including Lummi Island and Larrabee State Park.
All molluscan shellfish including 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.
The algae that contain the toxin can't be seen, and must be detected through laboratory testing.
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 email@example.com or call 715-2234.