If you’re a licensed recreational shellfish harvester itchins to scoop up clams, mussels, oysters and scallops, you can now, thanks to the Washington State Department of Health.
On August 17, the agency lifted closures on all Whatcom County beaches for recreational harvesters of molluscan shellfish after high levels of biotoxin closed beaches north of Sandy Point in June. The toxin is produced by some types of algae and can cause paralytic shellfish poisoning.
According to the Whatcom County Health Department, marine biotoxin can only be detected with a lab test and cannot be destroyed through cooking or freezing. Unlike recreational harvest, commercially harvested shellfish sold in restaurant and retail markets is tested prior to distribution.
Biotoxin levels are known to change rapidly, so harvesters are encouraged to keep a close eye out for closures. For current information about biotoxin and pollution closures, visit doh.wa.gov/ehp/sf/biotoxin.htm or call the department of health’s biotoxin hotline at