Beaches from Three Tree Point to Pierce County closed to shellfish harvesting


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Screenshot from the Washington State Department of Health website showing beaches closed due to red tide.

The Washington State Department of Health and Public Health – Seattle & King County High announced Wednesday (Oct. 1) that due to high levels of a marine biotoxin that causes paralytic shellfish poisoning – also known as “red tide” – found in samples collected at the Des Moines Marina, that beaches from Three Tree Point south to the Pierce County line have been closed to recreational shellfish harvesting.

The closure includes clams, oysters, mussels,, geoducks and scallops. Working with partners, Public Health – Seattle & King County is posting advisory signs at beaches warning people to not collect shellfish.

Shrimp and crab are not included in this closure. Crabs should be cleaned prior to cooking, and the white-yellow fat inside the back of the shell, often referred to as “crab butter,” should be discarded. Commercial beaches are sampled separately and commercial products should be safe to eat.

An existing biotoxin closure for butter clams and varnish clams remains in effect for beaches north of Three Tree Point to the Snohomish County line.

Marine biotoxins are not destroyed by cooking or freezing and can be life threatening. People can become ill from eating shellfish contaminated with the naturally occurring marine algae that contain toxins that are harmful to humans. Symptoms of PSP can appear within minutes or hours, are generally mild, and begin with numbness or tingling of the face, arms, and legs. This is followed by headache, dizziness, nausea, and muscle weakness. Some people describe a floating sensation. In cases of severe poisoning, muscle paralysis and breathing difficulty respiratory failure can occur. Anyone experiencing these symptoms after eating shellfish should contact a health care provider immediately. For extreme reactions, call 911.

In most cases, the algae that contains toxins cannot be seen and must be detected using laboratory testing. The Washington State Department of Health and Public Health – Seattle & King County will continue to monitor beaches and will notify the public if the levels of PSP toxin become unsafe in other areas.

Recreational shellfish harvesting can be closed due to rising levels of biotoxin 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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