Story last updated at 6/17/2009 - 11:02 am
Harvesters should avoid eating shellfish from uncertified beaches, says the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). The DEC is advising sport and subsistence harvesters to be aware of the dangers of paralytic shellfish poison (PSP).
PSP is a potentially lethal toxin and can lead to fatal respiratory paralysis. The toxin comes from algae, a food source for clams, mussels, crabs and other shellfish found across Alaska.
DEC issued the warning because of seasonal low tides and longer daylight hours, which may spur harvesting.
"Don't eat shellfish from uncertified beaches," said George Scanlan, DEC program specialist. "Anyone who eats PSP contaminated shellfish is at risk for illness or death."
PSP occurs widely in Alaska, and the only beaches DEC can "certify" as safe for shellfish collecting are those where state certified testing of clams and mussels is done regularly. Certified beaches in the Cook Inlet and Kachemak Bay area include: Halibut Cove Lagoon, Jakolof Bay, Kasitsna Bay (McDonald Spit), Tutka Bay, Chugachik Island, Sadie Cove, Polly Creek and Crescent River. Clam Gulch-Anchor Point is not a certified beach.
There are no certified beaches in Kodiak, the Aleutian Islands or populated areas of Southeast Alaska.
The DEC warning does not apply to commercially grown and harvested shellfish available in grocery stores and restaurants. They are tested regularly before going to the market.
All harvesters are cautioned that small butterclams, which are more likely to contain PSP, can be misidentified as littleneck clams. Butterclams have prominent concentric growth rings while littlenecks have rings, which are concentric and intersect at right angles. Examples of each type of shellfish can be found online at www.dec.state.ak.us/eh/fss/seafood/psp/shellfish.htm.