Recreational shellfish harvesting banned from Bellingham Bay south

The state Department of Health has closed all beaches from Bellingham Bay south to the Skagit County line to recreational shellfish harvesting because the biotoxin that causes paralytic shellfish poisoning has increased to unsafe levels.

The ban is for all shellfish, and includes Portage Bay as well as Larrabee State Park.

Meanwhile, the biotoxin levels have dropped to safe levels in northern Whatcom County, allowing the state to reopen beaches from Sandy Point to Birch Point, including Birch Bay, that have been closed for the past two weeks.

Paralytic shellfish poisoning can be life-threatening. Algae containing the biotoxin can’t be seen and is determined by testing. The state regularly tests for biotoxin levels.

Shellfish sold in restaurants and stores have been tested before distribution and are safe to eat, health officials said.

Before harvesting any shellfish, such as clams, mussels, oysters and scallops, check the biotoxin website at doh.wa.gov/ehp/sf/biotoxin.htm or call the biotoxin hot line at 1-800-562-5632.