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Health & Community Services News

Posted on: August 23, 2023

San Juan County Closed to Recreational Shellfish Harvesting

Health and Community Services

SAN JUAN COUNTY, WA. August 23, 2023 – As of August 22, 2023, the Washington State Department of Health has closed recreational shellfish harvesting in San Juan County due to unsafe levels of Paralytic Shellfish Poison (PSP). This closure includes all species of molluscan shellfish including clams, geoduck, scallops, mussels, oysters, and snails.

PSP and other biotoxins are poisons that occur naturally in marine waters; however, certain environmental factors can increase the production of these poisons. Molluscan shellfish that filter feed (shellfish with hinged shells such as oysters, clams, and mussels) can ingest these biotoxins, which remain in their system. Meat from crab and shrimp is not affected, but “crab butter” and entrails should be discarded during PSP advisories as they may contain biotoxins. When PSP concentrations reach unsafe levels in shellfish, ingesting them can cause severe illness or death. Cooking shellfish does not destroy PSP present in their system, and there is no antidote for Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning.

San Juan County Health & Community Services works in partnership with the Washington State Department of Health to ensure safe harvesting of recreational shellfish.  Shellfish from different areas of the County are collected on a routine basis from April to October and sent to the Public Health Lab where they are analyzed for biotoxin levels.

PSP levels can change rapidly. SJC HCS will continue to collect samples and monitor biotoxin levels; when levels return to a safe concentration, certain areas will reopen for harvesting. Always check the Shellfish Safety Map or call WA State’s 24-hour hotline at 1-800-562-5632 before harvesting shellfish.

If you experience symptoms of Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning, please seek medical attention immediately.

Relevant URLs:

Media Contact: Kirk Sato, Environmental Health Specialist, kirks@sanjuanco.com, 360-298-5141

About San Juan County’s Department of Health & Community Services    

San Juan County’s Department of Health & Community Services is responsible for community and environmental health, mental health and substance abuse programs, senior services, affordable housing projects, and more. The department has staff and offices on Lopez, Orcas, and San Juan Islands. For more information about San Juan County’s Department of Health & Community Services, visit www.sanjuanco.com/1777/Health-Community-Services.

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