Shellfish Poisoning Outbreak Halts Oregon’s Mussel Harvest

There are also temporary restrictions on harvesting various types of clams

Yachats coastline
The shoreline of Yachats, Oregon.
VWPics/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Last week, 21 Oregonians fell ill with paralytic shellfish poisoning. As Portland-based KOIN news reported, some of the affected people were hospitalized, and authorities believe that the illness came as a result of mussels harvested at Short Beach. Concerns over the possiblity of further outbreaks spread, and now the state government is putting a temporary stop to the harvesting of mussels and other forms of shellfish along the state’s coastline.

The closures came about after analysis of the poisoning revealed higher-than-expected levels of a toxin called PSP. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife describes this as “a natural marine biotoxin produced by some species of microscopic algae” — and the possiblity that it might affect more than just mussels has led to this latest action.

Oregon has also temporarily paused the gathering of razor clams from the city of Yachats south to the California border. It’s also prohibited both recreational and commercial bay clam harvesting beginning at Cascade Head and extending north to the border of Washington State.

As for what’s next — well, that’s in the hands of the Oregon Department of Agriculture, which is working in tandem with the Department of Fish and Wildlife to respond to the threat of toxic shellfish. According to the latter’s website, the Department of Agriculture “will continue testing for shellfish toxins at least twice per month, as tides and weather permit.” If two consecutive tests in a region are below the closure limit, the area will be re-opened.

As the Associated Press reports, the state government is also working to determine just how widespread the situation is, and is asking anyone who consumed shellfish originating in Oregon since May 13 to complete a survey. Hopefully the crisis will abate quickly, minimizing the disruption to both recreational and commercial harvesters.


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