Shellfish harvesting reopens in parts of Willapa Bay and some rivers


The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) has reopened several areas in Willapa Bay for commercial shellfish harvesting.  

Nahcotta, Cedar River, North River, Nemah River, and Naselle River are now open after recent closures due to high levels of paralytic shellfish poison (PSP) detected in shellfish, including mussels and clams, in the Washington Pacific Coast. 

Even with the reopening, each batch of shellfish harvested in these areas must be tested for PSP toxins to ensure safety when sold to the public. 

"We understand the importance of commercial shellfish harvesting to our communities, and we are pleased to announce the reopening of these areas," said Dani Toepelt, Shellfish Licensing and Certification Manager. "As people’s safety remains our top priority, lot testing will remain mandatory until further notice.” 

Other areas, including Stony Point, Bruceport, and Bay Center, remain closed for commercial harvesting, and all recreational harvesting in Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor is still prohibited. 

Last June 5, DOH prohibited all recreational shellfish harvest in both Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor following a large PSP occurrence wherein several recreational harvesters got sick on Memorial Day weekend after harvesting mussels along the Oregon Coast. 

The DOH is monitoring the situation closely and may adjust testing requirements based on results.  

Shellfish harvested and distributed to stores and restaurants are rigorously tested and safe for consumption.  

PSP is a serious condition caused by a naturally occurring marine biotoxin produced by certain species of microscopic algae.  

Shellfish, which consume these algae, can accumulate the toxin in their tissues. 

Cooking or freezing the shellfish will not affect the potency or the biotoxin, making contaminated shellfish hazardous even after preparation.  

Symptoms of PSP can manifest within hours after consumption, ranging from tingling sensations in the lips and tongue to numbness in the hands and feet, and in severe cases, can escalate to respiratory difficulties and death.  

Immediate medical attention is crucial for anyone experiencing these symptoms. 

For updated information on shellfish safety and closures, visit the Department of Fish and Wildlife website. 

To be updated on the status of the closed harvesting areas, visit the Washington Fishing Regulations portal or call the biotoxin hotline at 1-800-562-5632. 

Information of marine biotoxins and related illnesses can be accessed on the DOH’s website. 


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