Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times
Those looking to enjoy oysters on the half shell in Penn Cove, Saratoga Passage or Holmes Harbor should look elsewhere. The three areas are closed to recreational shellfish harvesting because of high levels of marine biotoxins.

Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times Those looking to enjoy oysters on the half shell in Penn Cove, Saratoga Passage or Holmes Harbor should look elsewhere. The three areas are closed to recreational shellfish harvesting because of high levels of marine biotoxins.

Penn Cove, Saratoga Passage, Holmes Harbor closed to shellfish harvesting due to marine biotoxins

Shellfish harvested from the affected areas after Aug. 16 should be disposed of.

Harvesters should not eat clams, mussels, oysters, geoducks and scallops from Penn Cove, Saratoga Passage and Holmes Harbor because of dangerous biotoxin levels, officials announced this week.

Any shellfish harvested from the areas after Monday, Aug. 16 should be disposed of.

The closure does not include crab, according to information from the state Department of Health and the Island County Public Health Department natural resources division.

Although crab feed on impacted shellfish, the levels of biotoxins are not high enough to make crab meat unsafe to eat. However, toxins tend to accumulate in the yellow-white fat and guts in a crab and should be avoided.

Marine biotoxins occur naturally in small amounts and are produced by certain types of phytoplankton. The level of biotoxins can become dangerous in the summer months because of the combination of warmer temperatures, sunlight and nutrient-rich waters that create a “bloom,” according to the state Department of Health.

Shellfish such as clams, mussels and oysters can become particularly affected by the biotoxins because they are filter feeders, and the toxins can accumulate in their flesh. The biotoxins are not harmful to the shellfish themselves but can be dangerous for animals and humans if eaten. Cooking affected shellfish will not rid them of the toxins, and harvesters simply need to wait for biotoxin levels to return to lower levels.

Harvesters should check the state Department of Health shellfish safety map at bit.ly/2WtgeJh before grabbing a shovel.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated which agency issued the shellfish closure. It has been corrected. We regret the error.

More in News

School buses crash with students on board but no one injured

The buses weren’t seriously damaged and were able to complete their routes later in the afternoon.

Fundraiser set for firefighter who suffered a stroke

A fundraiser for Daniel Hovelsrud, 28, has raised almost $20,000 to help him with medical expenses.

Port to hold public hearing about proposed tax levy

The Port of Coupeville is seeking community input about creating an industrial development district.

South Whidbey public records advocate blasts cities’ incomplete, litigious responses

South Whidbey resident Eric Hood has collected around $1 million in Public Records Act lawsuits.

Wanted child molest suspect back in jail

Michael Cheatham of Oak Harbor, 39, has been charged with multiple counts of child molestation.

Two Whidbey residents were injured in a two car crash on Highway 20 Monday morning. (Photo provided by North Whidbey Fire and Rescue)
Two injured in Highway 20 collision Monday morning

Two Whidbey residents were injured when a car struck another car that was turning onto Highway 20.

See caption
Friends of the Langley Library celebrating 100 years

A charitable group that has survived one whole century in Langley will be celebrating this weekend.

Fire, police chiefs lobby for building improvements

Oak Harbor’s growth has impacted the fire and police departments’ abilities to maintain service.

Dragon boat club to honor late teammates on Saturday

Local paddlers will honor two late teammates in the best way they know — in full dragon boat regalia.

Most Read