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Public Health News

Posted on: August 6, 2020

Shellfish Harvesting at Oak Bay, Mats Mats Bay and Port Ludlow Closed Due to Biotoxins


August 6, 2020
For Immediate Release
Contact: Michael Dawson, Water Quality Manager
Jefferson County Public Health
360-385-9444 ext. 301

Port Townsend: Recent shellfish samples in several locations have shown high levels of the marine biotoxin that causes Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP), and the Washington State Department of Health has closed Oak Bay, Mats Mats Bay and Port Ludlow to the recreational harvest of all species of shellfish. Danger signs have been posted at public access points by Jefferson County Public Health. Other waters that closed earlier this summer include Discovery Bay, Mystery Bay, Kilisut Harbor and Fort Flagler.

The closure includes clams, oysters, mussels, scallops and other species of molluscan shellfish. Shellfish harvested commercially are tested for toxin prior to distribution. 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 (sometimes called the “crab butter”).

Marine biotoxins are not destroyed by cooking or freezing. People can become ill from eating shellfish contaminated with the naturally occurring marine algae. 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 toxic algae cannot be seen, and must be detected by a laboratory. Therefore, recreational shellfish harvesters should check the interactive map at or call the 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 at or the Shellfish Rule Change Hotline 1-866-880-5431.

Due to COVID-19, the State of Washington requires social distancing during all outdoor activities including recreational shellfish harvesting. If six-foot distancing is not possible, please wear masks and limit group size to five or less.


Jefferson County Public Health
Always Working for a Safer and Healthier Community

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