King County Health Closes Beaches to Shellfish Harvesting Due to ‘Red Tide’

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Public Health – Seattle & King County announced Friday (July 20) that Paralytic Shellfish Poison (PSP), also known as “Red Tide” has been detected, and all county beaches have been closed to shellfish harvesting.

The department is posting advisory signs at beaches warning people to not collect shellfish, including in Burien.

“The closure includes clams, oysters, mussels, scallops, other species of mollusks and invertebrates such as the moon snail,” reads an announcement. “Crabmeat is not known to contain the PSP toxin, but the guts can contain unsafe levels. To be safe, clean crab thoroughly and discard the guts (“butter”). This closure does not apply to shrimp.”

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

PSP poisoning can be life-threatening and is caused by eating shellfish containing a potent neurotoxin. A naturally occurring marine organism produces the toxin. 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.

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 before harvesting shellfish anywhere in Puget Sound.

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