Oregon and Washington coasts close all shellfish due to ‘historic levels’ of biotoxin

Published on 07-06-24 at 06:15
By Andre’ Hagestedt, Oregon Coast Beach Connection

(Long Beach, Washington) – Both the Oregon and Washington coasts have halted all shellfish harvests, with Washington doing so Wednesday after most of Oregon closed due to the biotoxin Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP). On Thursday, Oregon officials closed the remaining portions of the coast as higher levels of PSP were found and an out of abundance of caution was in place.

At least two dozen people became quite ill after eating mussels obtained from Oregon beaches that were contaminated with the poison, one of the reasons both states closed mussels and clams to recreational harvesters. This includes bay clams and razor clams.

The guidelines come from the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) and the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA). They have also affected some commercial activities.

All beaches on the Oregon coast – from California to the Washington border – are closed to all types of shellfish.

While beaches in Washington are closed for recreational harvesting anyway this season, DOH has closed the two main bays of Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay for both recreational and commercial harvesting.

Crabbing is not closed in the Pacific Northwest, but be sure to gut the innards before eating as they often contain biotoxins.

“Any recreational harvest of shellfish is prohibited in Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay due to the extreme PSP risk,” DOH said.

Also in Olympic National Park, all shellfish collections are currently closed for the season.

Dani Toepelt, Washington State Shellfish Licensing and Certification Manager, said that while no harvesters have become ill in Washington, the closure of both industrial and public shellfish operations comes as they are also seeing high biotoxin levels there.

Certain lots of shellfish harvested in Willapa Bay between May 26 and 30 have been recalled to reduce the risk of PSP disease.

“We are working around the clock to notify and work with affected shellfish farmers in Willapa Bay,” Toepelt said. “The industry is doing everything it can to get through this PSP event and protect seafood consumers from illness.”

Public beaches in Pacific and Grays Harbor counties have prominent biotoxin warning signs. Current information about the closure is available through the Washington Shellfish Safety Map or by calling the Biotoxin/Red Tide Hotline at 1-800-562-5632. Additional information on marine biotoxins and related diseases is available on the DOH website.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) called “historically high levels” of PSP found in razor clams and mussels, leading to increasing closures since May 23.

“PSP is a natural marine biotoxin produced by some species of microscopic algae,” ODFW said.

It is eaten by the shellfish and cannot be cooked or removed from the creatures.

The ODA has also closed this commercial fishery:

Tillamook Bay: oysters.
Netarts Bay: oysters.
Umpqua Bay: oysters.
Coastwide: razor clams and laurel shells

Symptoms (of DOH):

Symptoms of PSP can occur within minutes or hours of consumption, starting with tingling lips and tongue and spreading to the hands and feet, followed by breathing difficulties and possibly death. People who experience these symptoms should seek medical attention immediately.

“Shellfish harvested commercially and distributed to stores and restaurants undergo rigorous toxin testing and are safe for consumption,” DOH said.

For more information about Oregon,

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