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Public Health News

Posted on: August 14, 2020

Port Townsend and Admiralty Inlet Closed Due to Biotoxins

01 Danger - Toxic Shellfish

August 14, 2020
For Immediate Release
Contact: Michael Dawson, Water Quality Manager
Jefferson County Public Health
360-385-9444 x301


Port Townsend: Marine biotoxins that cause Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP) have been spreading rapidly and the Washington State Department of Health has closed Port Townsend Bay and Admiralty Inlet to the recreational harvest of all species of shellfish. Earlier this summer Mats Mats Bay, Kilisut Harbor, Fort Flagler, Oak Bay, Port Ludlow and Discovery Bay also closed to shellfishing due to PSP. Danger signs have been posted at public access points by Jefferson County Public Health.

The closure includes clams, oysters, mussels, scallops and other species of molluscan shellfish. Shellfish harvested commercially are tested for toxin prior to distribution and should be safe to eat. 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 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 clickable map at www.doh.wa.gov/ShellfishSafety.htm 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 wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish 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, wear masks. Stay close to home and keep your group size small.

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

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