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Paralytic Shellfish Poison at lethal levels in Carr Inlet

September 19, 2013

TACOMA, Wash. - Paralytic Shellfish Poison (PSP) toxins have increased to lethal levels in shellfish samples collected from Carr Inlet in Pierce County. As a result, Washington State Department of Health has closed many Pierce County beaches to recreational shellfish harvesting.

Affected beaches include those from Point Fosdick south to Devils Head, including all of Carr Inlet and McNeil Island. Commencement Bay and the Narrows south to Point Fosdick, including Days Island, are also closed.

Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department has posted advisory signs warning people not to collect shellfish, including clams, oysters, mussels, scallops and other species of mollusks, from these areas:
  • Purdy Sand Spit
  • Penrose State Park
  • Home Boat Launch
  • Longbranch Marina
  • Longbranch Boat Launch
  • Wollochet Bay Boat Launch
  • Kopachuk State Park
  • Horsehead Bay
  • Fox Island Bridge
  • DeMolay Sand Spit & Nature Preserve
  • Narrows Park
  • Days Island Marina
  • Sunrise Beach County Park
Crab and shrimp are not included in the closure.

PSP poisoning, which can be life-threatening, occurs when people eat shellfish containing a potent neurotoxin. A naturally occurring marine organism produces the toxin, and cooking or freezing does not destroy it.
You can't detect PSP by looking at the water or the shellfish. Only laboratory testing can detect PSP. For this reason, the term “red tide” is misleading and inaccurate.

Conditions are changing rapidly and DOH may close additional beaches. Recreational shellfish harvesters can call the Department of Health Biotoxin Hotline at (800) 562-5632 or access the Biotoxin website at before harvesting shellfish anywhere in Puget Sound.

About Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department: Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department's mission is to safeguard and enhance the health of the communities of Pierce County. As part of this effort, the Health Department tackles known and emerging health risks through policy, programs, and treatment in order to protect public health. Learn more at


Edie Jeffers, Communications Manager, (253) 798-2853,
Ray Hanowell, Environmental Health Specialist, (253) 798-2845,

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