Northern Whatcom County beaches reopened to recreational shellfish harvesting


The state Department of Health has lifted the ban on recreational harvesting of molluscan shellfish on Whatcom County beaches north and west of Sandy Point because levels of the biotoxins that cause paralytic and diarrhetic shellfish poisoning have dropped to safe levels.

But the ban remains in effect for beaches south and east of Sandy Point, so all molluscan shellfish - including clams, mussels, oysters and scallops - should not be harvested on those beaches 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 biotoxins, which are not destroyed by cooking or freezing.

The algae that contain the toxins 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. Symptoms of DSP include diarrhea and vomiting, and last up to three days.

Reach KIE RELYEA at or call 715-2234.

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