The state Department of Health has closed beaches in northern Whatcom County to recreational shellfish harvesting because of unsafe levels of the biotoxin that causes paralytic shellfish poisoning on beaches in Birch Bay and Drayton Harbor.
The ban affects beaches from Sandy Point north to the Canadian border, including Point Roberts.
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 is not destroyed by cooking or freezing.
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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.