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Dyes Inlet closed to shellfishing

It’s time again to avoid eating local shellfish.

Blame it on the hot weather.

Dyes Inlet is now closed for all species of clams, mussels and oysters, according to Stuart Whitford of the Kitsap County Health District.

“Levels of PSP toxin in a sample of shellfish taken from the Silverdale Waterfront Park exceeded the state’s closure threshold of 80 milligrams,” he said.

Whitford, water quality programs manager, said the ban will remain in effect until the shellfish test clean.

“Usually, this means the rest of the summer season,” he added. Historically, it’s not unusual for Dyes to be affected from year to year.

Despite very high temperatures for weeks, the bloom is no worse than previous years. There are currently no other closures in the county.

However, if toxins show up in one bay, the problem might be developing in another, he said.

The county health district will continue to monitor shellfish at Kitsap beaches weekly, instead of its usual twice monthly, and notify the public if toxin levels rise. Liberty Bay in North Kitsap is being watched, he said. Affected beaches are usually posted — and posted in several languages to get the message to non-English speakers.

“The toxin is produced by microscopic plankton that occur naturally in our marine waters,” he said. “These organisms are more common in spring, summer and fall when sunny days and warmer temperatures can lead to unpredictably rapid growth — a plankton ‘bloom.’”

Filter-feeding shellfish concentrate the toxins in their tissues.

“The types of plankton that create ‘red tide’ are usually not toxic, while the planktons that are toxic often have no color.” But “red tides” can sometimes occur simultaneously with the rise in the other variety of plankton.

He said toxic shellfish do not look or taste any different than uncontaminated shellfish. The toxin cannot be washed out of affected shellfish, and, because the toxin itself is not alive, it cannot be cooked out of the shellfish.

Symptoms occur within about an hour of consuming affected shellfish, and include a tingling and numbness of lips and tongue, nausea, vomiting, muscle weakness and difficulty breathing. Call your doctor immediately, he said.

For the latest on closures within the county, call the health district’s hotline at 1 (800) 2BE-WELL. for info ion closures in other parts of Washington, call the Red Tide Hotline at 1 (800) 562-5632. The state DoH homepage is www.doh.wa.gov/ehp/sf/biotoxin.htm.

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