Biotoxin closes Sequim Bay to shellfish harvest

by Sequim Gazette staff

Due to an unfamiliar biotoxin, the State of Washington Department of Health has closed Sequim Bay to all species of shellfish, including clams (and geoduck), oysters, mussels and other invertebrates such as the moon snail.


The biotoxin, which has never been found in Washington waters until now, can cause diarrhetic shellfish poisoning, a foodborne illness that cannot be killed by cooking the food, Communications Officer Julie Graham said.


The Department of Health Office of Shellfish and Water Protection has suspected the biotoxin, which has caused problems in Europe and was recently found in British Columbia, may become a concern in Washington waters.


Graham said the program is working with federal partners and the University of Washington on this emerging issue in order to protect public health.


As environmental monitoring was underway earlier this month, the department learned of illnesses matching the description of DSP in a local family, she said. Shellfish samples were tested at the federal Food and Drug Administration lab, which confirmed presence of the toxin.


A recall was conducted for commercially sold products from the area dating back to Aug. 1 and all recalled product has been accounted for and is not currently on the market, she said.


The harvesting closures do not apply to shrimp. Crab meat is not known to contain the toxin, but the guts can contain unsafe levels. Butter clams have the ability to retain PSP toxin for a very long time — up to a year or more.


For more information, call the Marine Biotoxin Hotline at 1-800-562-5632 or visit