Around here we love our seafood, so we make sure you know when it’s safe to harvest and eat shellfish like clams, oysters, and mussels.
We work with the Washington State Department of Health to monitor conditions and alert you when it’s not safe to collect shellfish to eat. We temporarily close areas until conditions improve. Some of the reasons for shellfish closures are:
Always check before you dig! The best way to check if it’s safe to collect shellfish from local beaches is to visit the Washington Shellfish Safety Map or call the Biotoxin Hotline at 1-800-562-5632.
You can also look for closure signs at public beaches. When it’s not safe to harvest, we post signs to let you know.
Marine biotoxins are poisons produced by some types of algae that are naturally present in local marine waters. Shellfish eat the algae, and even though the biotoxins don’t affect them, the toxins concentrate in their tissues. When you eat shellfish with high levels of toxins, you can become seriously ill, be paralyzed, or die. Different kinds of biotoxins can cause Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning, Diarrhetic Shellfish Poisoning, or Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning.
You can’t see the algae that produce biotoxins. The only way to know if they are present is by testing. That’s why we test shellfish frequently and report new information on the Washington Shellfish Safety Map.
Learn more about the types of marine biotoxins and the signs and symptoms of illness.
Norovirus is a highly contagious virus. People most often associate it with “food poisoning” or “stomach flu” because it is often passed from person to person or from food or objects that are contaminated with the virus. You can also get norovirus by eating raw or undercooked shellfish if you harvest it from waters that are contaminated by untreated human sewage.
Learn more about norovirus in shellfish.
Vibriosis is a disease caused by a small bacteria that can be found in fish and shellfish that live in saltwater. The bacteria grow well in warm conditions. When they are present in large numbers, they can make you sick. Most cases of vibriosis occur from eating raw or undercooked fish or shellfish.
Learn more about vibriosis in shellfish.
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