Toxin closes recreational shellfishing on south Whatcom beaches

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

The closure was announced Friday, June 10, for all of Bellingham Bay, Portage Bay, and waters south to the Skagit County line including all of Larrabee State Park.

The ban is for molluscan shellfish, including clams, mussels, oysters and scallops. Mussels and varnish clams usually contain the highest concentration of toxin, health officials said.

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

Symptoms of DSP include vomiting and diarrhea, with diarrhea being the most common symptom.

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

Harvesters should check the DOH website, doh.wa.gov/ehp/sf/biotoxin.htm, or call the Biotoxin Hotline at 1-800-562-5632 before collecting any shellfish.