WHATCOM — Marine biotoxin levels have recently dropped in county waters, so that recreational harvest of molluscan shellfish is once again open to all species on most Whatcom County beaches.

However, some closures remain in effect. 

As of July 5, sections of Lummi Island remain closed to butter and varnish clam harvest only. Point Roberts beaches remain closed to all species of shellfish harvest pending further testing Bellingham  Bay  south  to  the  Skagit  County  line,  excluding  Chuckanut  Bay and  Larrabee  State  Park, remain closed to butter and varnish clam harvest only. Parts of Chuckanut Bay and Larrabee State Park are closed due to pollution.

Biotoxin  levels  can  change  rapidly,  so  shellfish  harvesters  are  advised  to  always  check  for  current shellfish closures on the Washington  Shellfish  Safety  Map  (doh.wa.gov/shellfishsafety) or to call  the  DOH  Biotoxin Hotline at 1-800-562-5632 before harvesting shellfish anywhere in Washington State.

Molluscan shellfish include clams, mussels, oysters and scallops. During a biotoxin event, mussels and varnish clams usually contain the highest toxin concentration. Paralytic shellfish poisoning biotoxin and other biotoxins are not destroyed by cooking or freezing.

Algae that produce marine biotoxins cannot be seen and must be detected by laboratory testing. The  Whatcom  County  Health Department routinely collects shellfish samples to monitor local  biotoxin levels in coordination with  the Washington  State  Department  of Health.

Pollution-related closures occur when the level of contaminants in the water, such as bacteria or viruses, are high enough to make people sick when they eat shellfish harvested from the area.

Shellfish sold in restaurants and retail markets are tested before distribution and are safe to eat.

More information about safely harvesting shellfish is available from the Washington State Department of Health at www.doh.wa.gov/CommunityandEnvironment/Shellfish/RecreationalShellfish.