Unsafe levels of Paralytic Shellfish Poison detected in Orcas Island shellfish

The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) is urging people to avoid eating oysters and clams harvested from Buck Bay on Orcas Island in San Juan County, following the detection of high levels of Paralytic Shellfish Poison (PSP) in the shellfish. 

The Buck Bay Shellfish Farm retail market, along with restaurants on Orcas Island, sold the now recalled shellfish directly to consumers.

Through biotoxin monitoring, DOH found that the shellfish had PSP levels nearly four times the allowable level for harvest. As of July 27, there have been no reports of illness, but Buck Bay Growing Area is closed until further notice.

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PSP is a naturally occurring marine biotoxin produced by some species of microscopic algae. Shellfish eat these algae and can retain the toxin, which is not destroyed by cooking or freezing.

PSP symptoms can occur within minutes to a few hours of consuming contaminated shellfish. Death from PSP has occurred in less than 30 minutes. Symptoms can include:

  • Tingling and numbness of the lips, tongue, fingers and toes.
  • Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
  • In severe cases, loss of coordination, difficulty speaking and swallowing and total muscular paralysis with respiratory arrest.

If you have mild symptoms, call your health care provider right away. If symptoms are severe, call 911 or go to the emergency room.

A list of areas closed for biotoxin can be found on DOH’s Shellfish Safety Map.