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Shellfish harvesting banned on west coast of Whidbey

Recreational shellfish harvesting has been banned on the entire west coast of Whidbey Island, from Possession Point to Deception Pass, due to the discovery of dangerous marine biotoxins.

Dr. Roger Case, health officer for Island County, announced the closure on Wednesday.

Case said marine biotoxins that cause paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) have been detected at concentrations above the closure level in shellfish samples collected from Lagoon Point.

High levels of PSP have also been detected in shellfish samples from the west side of Admiralty Inlet (Port Townsend, Port Ludlow, Marrowstone Island and Mats Mats Bay in Jefferson County).

In addition, Case noted the beaches in Coronet Bay remain closed to all species of shellfish, and the beaches from Ala Spit to Strawberry Point are closed to the recreational harvest of butter clams.

The closure includes clams, oysters, mussels, scallops and other species of molluscan shellfish.

Crab is not included in the closure, but crab can concentrate the toxin in their internal organs (crab butter). The health department advises cleaning crabs before cooking, and only the meat should be eaten, since marine biotoxins are not destroyed by cooking, rinsing or freezing.

Commercially harvested shellfish are sampled separately, and products on the market should be safe to eat.

Signs have been posted at high-use beaches warning people not to collect shellfish from these areas.

Marine biotoxins can be life-threatening, and in most cases the algae that contain the toxins cannot be seen, and must be detected using laboratory testing.

Recreational shellfish harvesters should check the Washington State Department of Health Web site at http://www.doh.wa.gov/ehp/sf/biotoxin.htm, or call the Biotoxin Hotline at 1-800-562-5632 before harvesting shellfish anywhere in Washington.

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