Shellfish, Crabs Now Safe to Harvest

mussels-500Razor clams, mussels, and crabs on the Oregon Coast are now OK to consume, say biologists at NOAA.

Over the past year, water temperature increases and toxic algae buildup have resulted in a dangerous accumulation of domoic acid in shellfish, crustaceans, and marine mammals up and down the West Coast. Domoic acid, a naturally occurring chemical also known as amnesic shellfish toxin, causes illness and death in ocean life when those animals are exposed after eating Pseudo-nitzschia algae. When infected shellfish and crabs are consumed by larger animals—such as humans—the neurotoxin can produce severe gastrointestinal distress, memory loss, and even death.

In early 2015, clams, mussels, and crabs found along the shores of the Pacific Northwest were all affirmed poisonous because of high levels of domoic acid. It’s been common to find substantial amounts of the neurotoxin in animals in Oregon, Washington, and California since the first case of infection was discovered in 1998.

However, scientists now say the levels of domoic acid registered in tests conducted on shellfish and crabs are no longer high enough to present any risk to humans. Both commercial and recreational farmers are now free to gather and consume most of the animals that were previously off-limits in Oregon, particularly razor clams, mussels, and crabs, provided that they are found above the Tillamook Head.

Razor clam harvesting was reopened Dec. 21 in Clatsop County. Crabbing is open on the southern Oregon Coast after being closed for several months, and the wild mussel harvest is now open along the entire coast.

Enjoy your mollusks, folks.

By Kiki Genoa