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Biotoxin Closes More of Oregon Coast to Mussels, Some Illnesses Reported

Published 5/27/24 at 12:35 a.m.
By Andre' Hagestedt, Oregon Coast Beach Connection

Biotoxin Closes More of Oregon Coast to Mussels, Some Illnesses Reported

(Oregon Coast) – Last week Oregon officials had to close mussel harvesting on one section of coastline due to a biotoxin, and over the weekend Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) was forced to shut down more. Now, ODFW and Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) closed the recreational harvesting of mussels from Seal Rock all the way up to the Washington coast border. (Seal Rock / Oregon Coast Beach Connection)

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ODFW said again tests found more shellfish poisoning (PSP) - a natural marine biotoxin – in a larger stretch of Oregon coast, after having previously locked up Seal Rock to Cape Lookout (near Oceanside). Almost all of the northern half of the coast is not suitable for grabbing mussels, which includes Newport, Lincoln City, Pacific City, Garibaldi, Nehalem Bay, Manzanita, Cannon Beach and Seaside.

ODFW said some have already gotten sick.

“Illnesses consistent with PSP have been reported from mussels harvested from the north coast,” the agency said.

Still open for the activity are Waldport, Florence, Reedsport, Coos Bay, Bandon, Port Orford and Brookings.

“ODA's testing showed the PSP level in mussels was rising in the last few weeks, and levels are now beyond the safety threshold,” ODFW said.

ODFW said the toxin builds in clams, and like the domoic acid occurrences which can hit crabbing and clamming hard, it comes from a natural source.

“PSP accumulates in clams that ingest a naturally occurring dinoflagellate (Alexandrium sp.),” ODFW said. “PSP poisoning is a byproduct of a group of dinoflagellates which produce saxitoxins which affect the nervous system.”

Consuming shellfish that have fed on toxic dinoflagellates can lead to severe effects on the body. Individuals may experience symptoms such as numbness, paralysis, disorientation, and even death. These can happen within hours after ingestion.

PSP can be found in razor clams, bay clams, mussels, scallops and oysters.

ODFW reiterated none of this has anything to do with the oil sheen currently affecting some parts of the coast and southern Washington beaches.

Coos Bay - courtesy Jaimie Baird / Oregon King Tides Project

You can still go razor clamming on the majority of the coastline, from Washington down to Cape Blanco (near Port Orford). However, that is also closed from Cape Blanco southward to the California border.

Bay clams and crabs are still safe and available for harvesting along the entire Oregon coast.

“ODA will continue testing for shellfish toxins at least twice per month, as tides and weather permit,” ODFW said. “Reopening an area closed for biotoxins requires two consecutive tests with results below the closure limit.”

For more information call ODA's shellfish biotoxin hotline at (800) 448-2474, the ODA Food Safety Program at (503) 986-4720, or visit the ODA Recreational Shellfish Biotoxin Closures Webpage.

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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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