If you’re thinking of scooping up some clams or other shellfish this weekend on a Vashon Island beach, better hold off.
The state Department of Health has closed all Vashon beaches, except Quartermaster Harbor, for recreational shellfish harvesting, according to a Friday news release by Public Health — Seattle and King County.
The beaches were closed after unsafe levels of paralytic shellfish poison were found in samples taken from Point Vashon and Tramp Harbor.
The county department is putting up signs to alert people not to collect shellfish while the unsafe condition lasts, the release says.
There are some exceptions.
The closure doesn’t include crab or shrimp. Crab meat has not been observed to contain the poison. It can be found in unsafe levels in crab guts, so the agency warned in the release to clean all caught crabs thoroughly.
Commercial fishing is unaffected by the recreational closure, because commercial beaches are sampled separately.
If ingested, paralytic shellfish poison can be fatal, and it is not neutralized by cooking or freezing.
Symptoms begin within an hour of eating tainted fish and begin with numbness or tingling, followed by a headache and other problems of increasing severity. Death can happen within two to 25 hours.
Anyone experiencing severe symptoms from consuming paralytic shellfish poison, which occurs naturally, should call 911 or go to an emergency room, the news release says.
People experiencing mild symptoms can consult the Washington Poison Center at 800-222-1222 or their health-care provider.
Recreational harvesters can consult the Department of Health’s shellfish safety site at https://fortress.wa.gov/doh/eh/maps/biotoxin/biotoxin.html or a biotoxin hotline at 800-562-5632 to learn how safe it is to catch and eat shellfish from any location in Puget Sound.