Much of the Oregon Coast remains closed due to elevated toxin levels
Clatsop Beach razor clamming to open October 1
September 26, 2003
Testing conducted this week reveals domoic acid levels are in the safe range for razor clams collected from Clatsop Beach, the area north of Tillamook Head to the Columbia River South Jetty, clearing the way for the beach to open October 1 when the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) conservation closure ends.
The beaches south of Seaside to the California border remain closed to razor clamming due to a separate bloom of the algae that produces domoic acid. Razor clams on the central coast were well above the safe level when tested earlier this month.
Both clams and mussels are closed to harvest from Coos Bay south to the California border due to paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) toxins above the safe level. This closure began September 12, 2003. Re-testing conducted this week shows the level of PSP toxins is still rising in this area. Shellfish contaminated with PSP toxins can cause minor to severe illness.
The Clatsop Beach closure began in October 2002 when levels of domoic acid exceeded the domoic acid alert level. The central and south coast razor clams were added to the closure by the end of 2002. Razor clams retain domoic acid in the edible tissue and purge the toxin slowly.
Razor clams on the central and south beaches were affected by a second bloom of domoic acid-producing algae in June 2003, increasing the level dangerously high. Levels have begun to drop but still can cause mild to severe symptoms for consumers who might defy the closure.
Domoic acid is a naturally occurring toxin produced by marine phytoplankton or algae. Eating shellfish contaminated with domoic acid can cause minor illness within minutes to hours after consumption. The toxin cannot be destroyed by cooking, adding baking soda, or any other method. In mild cases, symptoms can include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps and headache. More severe cases of domoic acid poisoning can result in memory problems and even death. Anyone experiencing symptoms after consuming razor clams should contact a physician.
The Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) oversees the shellfish toxin monitoring program. ODFW and special permitted volunteers assist ODA in collecting razor clams. More sites and clam species have been sampled than in past years in an effort to define closure areas. Other species of clams, other than razor clams, collected from well inside bays (past entrances, jetties, or spits), continue to test within the safe range for domoic acid and PSP poisoning.
Updates on shellfish toxin closures are available through ODA's Shellfish Hotline (503-986-4728) and online in the "Warnings and Alerts" section of ODA's website. For more information, contact Deb Cannon at (503) 986-4720.
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