ANACORTES — March Point beaches will be closed to recreational shellfish harvest this year due to potential health concerns, according to state officials.

Starting Monday, March Point will be off limits for clam and oyster harvest.

This is the first official state Department of Fish & Wildlife closure for the site, shellfish biologist Philippa Kohn said. In the past, recreational harvest has been allowed year-round.

Fish & Wildlife decided to close the beach to harvest following a recommendation from the state Department of Health.

Department of Health shellfish growing areas manager Scott Berbells said water quality at the site is not regularly monitored and the state has concerns about potential fecal bacteria contamination from wastewater discharges and from nearby agricultural land.

“We have a lot of concern with the potential impacts out in this area,” he said.

During the Department of Health’s annual beach survey this year, the public beach at March Point was red-flagged because of potential pollution sources and a lack of monitoring of water quality.

No illnesses have been reported in connection with shellfish harvested from the area, but without monitoring in place there is too high a risk.

Department of Health closely monitors commercial shellfish harvest areas, which in Skagit County are primarily in Samish Bay and north Padilla Bay, Berbells said.

Many recreational harvest areas are in close proximity to monitored commercial shellfish sites. March Point is not.

Kohn said Fish & Wildlife decided to close the intertidal areas to harvest this year during the agency’s annual season-setting process. No public input was received.

The Fish & Wildlife Commission approved the closure at its March 4 meeting, agency spokesman Craig Bartlett said.

Kohn said the surrounding waters will still be open to crabbing and other approved fishing activities, unless specific closures are issued by the Department of Health.

— Reporter Kimberly Cauvel: 360-416-2199, kcauvel@skagitpublishing.com, Twitter: @Kimberly_SVH, Facebook.com/bykimberlycauvel

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