July 19, 2017
For Immediate Release
Contact: Michael Dawson
Jefferson County Environmental Health
Port Townsend Bay, Kilisut Harbor and Mystery Bay Shellfish Closed Due to Marine Biotoxins
Port Townsend – Shellfish samples from Port Townsend Bay and Kilisut Harbor have been found to contain elevated levels of marine biotoxins that cause Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP). As a result, the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) has closed Port Townsend Bay, Kilisut Harbor, and Mystery Bay for recreational shellfish harvest. Danger signs are being posted at public access points warning people not to consume shellfish from this area.
The closure includes clams, oysters, mussels, scallops and other species of molluscan shellfish and extends a previous closure that covered only butter and varnish clams. Discovery Bay and the Strait of Juan de Fuca east to McCurdy (Middle) Point closed in June. Crabmeat is not known to contain the biotoxin but the guts can contain unsafe levels. To be safe, clean crab thoroughly and discard the guts (also known as the “butter”). Shellfish harvested commercially are tested for toxins prior to distribution and should be safe to eat.
Marine biotoxins are not destroyed by cooking or freezing. People can become ill from eating shellfish contaminated with the naturally occurring marine algae containing toxins harmful to humans. Symptoms of PSP can appear within minutes or hours and usually begins with tingling lips and tongue, moving to the hands and feet, followed by difficulty breathing, and potentially death. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should contact a health care provider immediately. For extreme reactions call 911.
In most cases the algae that contain the toxins cannot be seen, and must be detected using laboratory testing. Therefore, recreational shellfish harvesters should check the DOH Shellfish Safety Map at or call the DOH Biotoxin Hotline at 1-800-562-5632 before harvesting shellfish anywhere in Washington State. Recreational harvesters should also check Fish and Wildlife regulations and seasons, or call the Shellfish Rule Change Hotline 1-866-880-5431.
Always working for a safer and healthier community