Biotoxin closure lifted on Whatcom County beaches

The state Department of Health has reopened all beaches from Sandy Point south to the Skagit County line, including Portage Bay, to recreational shellfish harvesting after the biotoxin that caused paralytic shellfish poisoning dropped to safe levels.

The move means there are no biotoxin closures in Whatcom County, for the time being. But health officials caution that biotoxin levels can change rapidly.

Biotoxin levels have been rising and falling since April, they said on Thursday, July 2.

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.