Marine biotoxins that cause paralytic shellfish poisoning recently have been detected at dangerously high levels in shellfish samples collected from north Puget Sound.
The state Department of Health has closed several areas to recreational shellfish harvest because of these dangerous toxin levels. All of Whatcom County and all of San Juan County, Deception Pass, Fidalgo Bay, Samish Bay, Sinclair and Cypress Islands in Skagit County are closed.
The northern part of Whidbey Island, from Keystone Harbor on the west to Strawberry Point on the east including Deception Pass, also is closed to recreational shellfish harvest.
A second bloom recently has been detected in Discovery Bay in Clallam and Jefferson counties, also prompting a shellfish harvest closure. Toxin levels in Discovery Bay aren't as high as those found in north Puget Sound, but also should be taken seriously.
The so-called "red tide" toxin levels have been as much as 100 times higher than the closure level.
Warning signs have been posted at popular shellfish beaches. The closure includes clams, oysters, mussels, scallops, geoduck and other mollusks.
Anyone who's recently harvested shellfish from these areas should not eat them and should throw them out. Crab isn't included in the closure, but "crab butter" should be discarded. Only the crabmeat should be eaten.
Commercially harvested shellfish currently on the market have been tested thoroughly and are safe to eat.
Recreational shellfish harvesters are advised to check the Department of Health marine biotoxin Web site (www.doh.wa.gov/ehp/sf/
biotoxin.htm) or call the agency biotoxin hotline, 800-562-5632, before harvesting shellfish anywhere in the state.
State extends public comments for fishing changes
The public will have more time to review changes in state sportfishing rules proposed for 2010-2012 under an extended comment period announced last week by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officials.
Under the new timeline, the state will accept written comments through Dec. 1 on more than 100 proposed regulations - nearly a month longer than previously announced.
In addition, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission has postponed a public hearing on the proposals until its Dec. 4-5 meeting in Olympia. Written testimony also can be submitted during that meeting.
The commission, which sets policy for WDFW, is scheduled to take action on the proposed rule changes in February 2010.
Proposed changes for various 2010-2012 fishing seasons are posted on WDFW's Web site at wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/rule_proposals/index.htm.
Printed copies of the proposals are available by contacting WDFW's Fish Program at 360-902-2700.
Included on the list are two recent additions that would set new rules for spearfishers fishing for lingcod in Puget Sound and for rockfish in a portion of the Strait of Juan de Fuca (Marine Area 5).