Red tide shuts down shellfish harvesting in Pierce County

The State Health Department shut down shellfish harvesting at most Pierce County beaches Thursday because of high levels of paralytic shellfish poison ("red tide").

Potentially fatal amounts of the naturally occurring neurotoxin were discovered in shellfish samples collected from Day Island and Penrose Point.

As a result, the Health Department closed Carr Inlet and the eastern shoreline of Pierce County from King County down into Thurston County.

The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department is posting advisory signs at: Dash Point County Park, Browns Point Park, Owen Beach, Point Defiance boathouse, Narrows Park, Titlow Beach, Kopachuck State Park, Purdy Sandspit, Penrose Point State Park, Saltars Point and Solo Point warning people not to collect shellfish from these areas.

The closure includes clams, oysters, mussels, scallops and other species of mollusks. Crabs and shrimp are not included in the closure.

Colvos Passage continues to be closed to the recreational harvest of butter clams only. A sign remains in place at Sunrise Beach County Park.

Commercial beaches are sampled separately and commercial products should be safe to eat, health department officials said.

PSP poisoning, caused by eating shellfish containing the neurotoxin, can be life threatening. The poison is not destroyed by cooking or freezing.

Because conditions can change rapidly, more beaches may be closed soon, the Health Department says.

Recreational shellfish harvesters are advised to call the DOH Biotoxin Hot line at 1-800-562-5632 or access the Biotoxin Website at www.doh.wa.gov/ehp/sf/biotoxin.htm before harvesting shellfish anywhere in Puget Sound.