‘Paralytic Shellfish Poison’ Closes Area Beaches To Butter Clam Harvesting


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On Wednesday, Nov. 24th, the Washington Sate Department of Health announced that they have closed area South King County and Quartermaster Harbor to butter clam harvesting due to Paralytic Shellfish Poison.

“Paralytic Shellfish Poison (PSP) has been detected at levels of concern in butter clam samples collected from beaches in south King County and Quartermaster Harbor on Vashon Island,” reads a statement. “As a result, the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) has closed beaches from Three Tree Point in Burien to the Pierce County line and Quartermaster Harbor to the recreational harvest of butter clams.”

Authorities are posting advisory signs at area beaches, warning people to not collect butter clams from these areas. Other species of mollusks, crabs and shrimp are not included in the closure.

PSP poisoning can be life-threatening and is caused by eating shellfish containing a potent neurotoxin, which is produced by a naturally-occurring marine organism. The toxin is not destroyed by cooking or freezing.

A person cannot determine if PSP toxin is present by visual inspection of the water or shellfish. For this reason, the term “red tide” is misleading and inaccurate. PSP can only be detected by laboratory testing.

Commercial beaches are sampled separately and commercial products should be safe to eat.

Recreational shellfish harvesting can be closed due to rising levels of PSP at any time. Therefore, harvesters are advised to call the DOH Biotoxin Hotline at 1-800-562-5632 or visit the Biotoxin Website ( http://www.doh.wa.gov/ehp/sf/biotoxin.htm) before harvesting shellfish anywhere in Puget Sound.

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