Many Whatcom County beaches closed to recreational shellfish harvesting

The state Department of Health has closed some beaches in Whatcom County to recreational shellfish harvesting because of unsafe levels of the biotoxin that causes paralytic shellfish poisoning.

The ban affects beaches from Sandy Point north to the border, including Point Roberts. This is the second biotoxin related closure in less than a month.

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 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.

Paralytic shellfish poisoning can be life-threatening.

Once the ban is lifted, always check the biotoxin website at doh.wa.gov/ehp/sf/biotoxin.htm or call the Biotoxin Hotline at 1-800- 562-5632 before harvesting shellfish anywhere in Washington state.