birchbay

Mussels from Birch Bay were found to have dangerous levels of the paralytic shellfish poisoning biotoxin. (Ashley Hiruko/Lynden Tribune)

North Sandy Point beaches remain closed to molluscan harvest

WHATCOM — Recent weekly monitoring test results show that the paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) biotoxin has increased to dangerous levels in mussels from Birch Bay, according to reports from Whatcom County Health Department and the Washington State Department of Health.

The current levels of the PSP toxin are high enough to cause illness and beaches that span from Sandy Point to the Canadian Border, including Point Roberts, remain closed for the harvest of molluscan shellfish. This includes oysters, clams, mussels and scallops.

The PSP level in mussels from Birch Bay increased seven-fold from the beginning of June, a news release from the health department states.

However, the toxin levels in these sea creatures are rising in all areas of north Whatcom County.

The health department monitors shellfish on a weekly basis when biotoxins are present.

The toxins can be deadly and are not destroyed by cooking. Shellfish sold in stores and restaurants are tested for the biotoxin prior to shipment and deemed safe to consume.

Mussels and varnish clams usually contain more toxin than other species during a closure. Biotoxin levels in clams and oysters are not routinely monitored until toxin levels in mussels drop. It is best to assume that all molluscan shellfish are unsafe in the closure zone.

To check on closures visit the (DOH) biotoxin web site at http://www.doh.wa.gov/CommunityandEnvironment/Shellfish/RecreationalShellfish or the telephone hotline at 1-800-562-5632. For more information about biotoxins in Washington, visit the DOH website at: http://www.doh.wa.gov or call the office at 778-6000.