While the commercial harvesting of oysters has been closed in Samish Bay since July 16 because of the presence of the illness-causing bacteria vibrio, the recreational harvesting of shellfish was also closed this week on area beaches.

The state Department of Health announced Thursday the closure of recreational shellfish harvesting in south Skagit Bay, Similk Bay and Deception Pass.

The closure is because of the presence of the biotoxin that causes paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) — a potentially life-threatening illness that affects the nervous system. The recreational closure applies to oysters as well as clams, mussels and scallops.

While crabbing remains open, the toxins that cause PSP can be found in crab butter, which should be carefully discarded at this time, according to the Department of Health.

Symptoms of PSP can set in within 30 minutes of shellfish consumption and may include numbness and tingling of the lips and tongue; vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain; numbness in arms and legs; muscular paralysis or coordination loss; dizziness and incoherence; headache, rapid pulse, and respiratory distress. Anyone experiencing those symptoms should seek emergency medical care.

PSP-related closures are also in effect for areas of Whatcom, Island and Snohomish counties.

Beach closure information can be found online or by calling the state’s Marine Biotoxin Hotline at 1-800-562-5632.

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

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