Most Whatcom County beaches reopened to recreational shellfish harvesting

The state Department of Health has reopened recreational harvesting of all species of molluscan shellfish on Whatcom County beaches north of Point Whitehorn, including Point Roberts.

The agency also has lifted the ban for most species, except for butter and varnish clams, south of Point Whitehorn, with the exception of Portage Bay.

The ban remains for Portage Bay for all species because the biotoxin that causes diarrhetic shellfish poisoning remains at unsafe levels.

Molluscan shellfish include clams, mussels, oysters and scallops.

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.

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.

Symptoms of DSP include diarrhea and vomiting, and last up to three days.