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Here's where gathering shellfish in Whatcom County could make you sick

If you love shellfish, make sure you’re eating it safely

Health officials urge people to check a biotoxin hotline before harvesting molluscan shellfish like clams, mussels and oysters anywhere in Washington state. A naturally occurring marine biotoxin can cause paralytic shellfish poisoning.
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Health officials urge people to check a biotoxin hotline before harvesting molluscan shellfish like clams, mussels and oysters anywhere in Washington state. A naturally occurring marine biotoxin can cause paralytic shellfish poisoning.

Don't gather and eat shellfish from north Whatcom County beaches in the coming days if you don't want to get sick.

The state Department of Health has closed beaches to recreational shellfish harvesting from Birch Point north to the Canadian border.

That's because tests show unsafe levels of the biotoxin that causes paralytic shellfish poisoning in Drayton Harbor, health officials said.

The closure includes Point Roberts as a precaution until biotoxin levels can be determined there, health officials said.

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.

Crabmeat isn't affected, but "crab butter" and crab entrails can harbor the naturally occurring marine biotoxin, which is 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.

Algae that contain the toxins are detected by laboratory testing, health officials said.

Before harvesting shellfish anywhere in Washington state, health officials are urging people to go online to www.doh.wa.gov/ehp/sf/biotoxin.htm or call the toll-free Biotoxin Hotline at 800-562-5632.

Kie Relyea: 360-715-2234, @kierelyea
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