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Most Whatcom County beaches safe for shellfish harvesting

Most beaches in Whatcom County have been reopened to recreational shellfish harvesting because marine biotoxins that could cause illness have dropped to safe levels.

The Washington state Health Department has lifted the ban on most beaches, except for Portage Bay, where varnish clams still can’t be harvested recreationally.

The notice is for molluscan shellfish, which include clams, mussels, oysters and scallops. Mussels usually contain the highest concentration of toxin, health officials said.

The toxins can’t be destroyed by cooking or freezing. They can cause flu-like symptoms and sicken people who eat tainted shellfish.

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

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