HEALTH ALERT: Recreational shellfish harvesting closed from Alki Beach south to Pierce County line

County health authorities just announced that the state Health Department has closed beaches to shellfish harvesting from “Alki Beach south to the Pierce County line, including Vashon Island and Quartermaster Harbor beaches.” Here’s the full text of the news release:

Paralytic Shellfish Poison (PSP) has been detected at unsafe levels in shellfish on Vashon Island and at the Des Moines Marina. As a result, the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) has closed Alki Beach south to the Pierce County line, including Vashon Island and Quartermaster Harbor beaches, to recreational shellfish harvest.

The closure includes all species of shellfish including clams, geoduck, scallops, mussels, oysters, snails and other invertebrates; the closure does not include crab or shrimp. Crabmeat is not known to contain the PSP toxin, but the guts can contain unsafe levels. To be safe, clean crab thoroughly and discard the guts (“butter”). Working with partners, Public Health – Seattle & King County is posting advisory signs at beaches warning people to not collect shellfish.

Commercial beaches are sampled separately and commercial products should be safe to eat.

Anyone who eats PSP contaminated shellfish is at risk for illness. PSP poisoning can be life-threatening and is caused by eating shellfish containing this potent neurotoxin. A naturally occurring marine organism produces the toxin. The toxin is not destroyed by cooking or freezing.

A person cannot determine if PSP toxin is present by visual inspection of the water or shellfish. For this reason, the term “red tide” is misleading and inaccurate. PSP can only be detected by laboratory testing.

Symptoms of PSP usually begin 30-60 minutes after eating the contaminated shellfish, but may take several hours. Symptoms are generally mild, and begin with numbness or tingling of the face, arms, and legs. This is followed by headache, dizziness, nausea, and loss of muscle coordination. Sometimes a floating sensation occurs. In cases of severe poisoning, muscle paralysis and respiratory failure occur, and in these cases death may occur in 2 to 25 hours.

If symptoms are mild, call your health care provider or Washington Poison Center (800-222-1222), and Public Health (206-296-4774). If symptoms are severe, call 911 or have someone take you to the emergency room immediately.

Recreational shellfish harvesting can be closed due to rising levels of PSP at any time. Therefore, harvesters are advised to call the DOH Biotoxin Hotline at 800-562-5632 or visit the Shellfish safety website before harvesting shellfish anywhere in Puget Sound.

11 Replies to "HEALTH ALERT: Recreational shellfish harvesting closed from Alki Beach south to Pierce County line"

  • waikikigirl August 31, 2017 (1:52 pm)

    YUK who would eat shellfish harvested from Alki Beach?! I know my Dad used to but he was born in 1916 so I do believe Alki was a little cleaner then!

    • Kersti E muul August 31, 2017 (2:26 pm)

      I eat crabs…..

    • Ernie August 31, 2017 (6:01 pm)

      I do believe Alki was a little cleaner then!”

      I wouldn’t be so sure, Seattle was a growing city then, and had no water quality regulations and a lot of industry, also the city sewer probably went straight into the water all around the waterfront. 

  • Justducky August 31, 2017 (3:56 pm)

    Clean the crab before cooking!

    • Mike September 1, 2017 (7:13 am)

      Won’t help you, microorganisms will still make you sick or kill you and heavy metals (the reason you NEVER eat shellfish from Alki) can’t be cleaned or cooked out of them.  There’s a reason signs in various languages are posted saying to NOT eat shellfish from Alki and have been there for decades, it can be lethal.  The current issue is water quality and microorganisms and that’s why it impacts more than just around the sludge pot of the Duwamish.

      • Duanob September 1, 2017 (12:20 pm)

        Crabs man, no worries even the health Dept says so.

  • Swede. August 31, 2017 (5:35 pm)

    But there was never any closure from the millions of gallons of raw sewage that leaked out…

  • Gina September 1, 2017 (8:18 am)

    There was a tide at Alki during the sewage overflow time that left a line of toilet paper fibers. 

  • RBC September 2, 2017 (10:32 am)

    So your harvest has a bit more roughage in it than usual.

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