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Birch Bay and Blaine no longer the only beaches you need to avoid gathering shellfish

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.

The Washington State Department of Heath has closed all Whatcom County beaches from Sandy Point north to the Canadian Border, including Point Roberts, for shellfish gathering. This is an expansion of last week's closure that included Birch Bay and beaches to the north.

The move was made after unsafe levels of paralytic shellfish poisoning biotoxin were detected in molluscan shellfish on beaches from Birch Bay to Drayton Harbor, according to a Whatcom County Health Department release Wednesday.

Point Roberts beaches will be closed as a precaution until shellfish samples can be collected and biotoxin levels determined, and the Whatcom County Health Department will continue to monitor biotoxin levels each week and notify the public when conditions appear safe.

Algae that contain marine biotoxins cannot be seen, and must be detected by laboratory testing, according to the release. Paralytic shellfish poisoning and other naturally occurring biotoxins are not destroyed by cooking or freezing. Molluscan shellfish include clams, mussels, oysters and scallops.

Shellfish in stores and restaurants are tested for marine toxins before going to market and are safe to eat.

Shellfish gatherers are encouraged to check current biotoxin and pollution closures at the Department of Health website. or call the biotoxin hotline at 800-562-5632 before heading out to any Washington state beach. It's also recommended you check legal harvest seasons and licensing requirements at the Washington State Depart of Fish and Wildlife website.

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