The state Department of Health has closed beaches in southern Whatcom County to recreational shellfish harvesting because unsafe levels of the biotoxin that causes paralytic shellfish poisoning were found in shellfish on beaches in Bellingham Bay.
The ban affects beaches from Bellingham Bay south to the Skagit County line, including all of Larrabee State Park.
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 isn’t 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.