Point Roberts beaches are currently closed to recreational harvest for all species of molluscan shellfish as a precaution until shellfish samples can be obtained to determine biotoxin levels.
Unsafe levels of paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) biotoxin have been detected in molluscan shellfish on beaches in Whatcom County. As a result, the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) has closed recreational harvest for all species of molluscan shellfish on most Whatcom County beaches. Beaches include Lummi Island, Hale Passage, Lummi Bay and all beaches from Sandy Point north to the Canadian border including Point Roberts are closed.
Portage Bay, Samish Bay and Bellingham Bay south to the Skagit County border remain open. The Whatcom County Health Department will be collecting additional samples each week to monitor biotoxin levels. The public will be notified when biotoxin levels have dropped below the closure limit.
Molluscan shellfish include clams, mussels, oysters and scallops. Mussels usually contain the highest toxin concentration. PSP and other naturally occurring biotoxins are not destroyed by cooking or freezing. While crab meat is not affected, “crab butter” and crab entrails can harbor biotoxins so should be discarded.
Shellfish sold in restaurants and markets have been tested before distribution and are safe to eat. Algae that contain the toxins cannot be seen, and must be detected by laboratory testing. Therefore, always check the DOH website at doh.wa.gov/ehp/sf/biotoxin.htm or call the DOH Biotoxin Hotline at 800/562-5632 before harvesting shellfish anywhere in Washington State.