Monday, July 19, 2010

Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP)

Plankton, the tiny plants and animals that are the base of the marine food web, are everywhere in the Puget Sound. They are vital to our ecosystems and provide 50-75% of the oxygen that we breathe. Most plankton is good but there are some ‘bad’ ones that contain toxins, which they can release when triggered. A certain kind of plankton, called dinoflagellates (Pseudo-nitzschia pictured at left), are responsible for the Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP) events seen in the Puget Sound area. These events occur mostly during the summer months when conditions like sunlight, temperature and nutrients are favorable and the plankton are able to reproduce at a rapid rate. During a PSP event, the harmful plankton is so numerous in the gut of clams, mussels or oysters that the shellfish becomes unsafe for human consumption. If these shellfish are consumed symptoms such as tingling, nausea or even death can occur.













Faithful Sound Toxin volunteers Dick, Louise and Stephanie look for harmful plankton

Viewer Tip:To prevent harm from PSP make sure to check the PSP Red Tide Hotline 1-800-562-5632 for current beach closures before harvesting clams, mussels or oysters. Cook all shellfish thoroughly. Make sure you seek medical attention immediately if you notice any of the early warning signs of PSP such as tingling in the lips or tongue.

Plankton blooms can sometimes change the color of the water, but not always.

Right now there are LETHAL levels of PSP in Clallam County along the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The Department of Health Office of Shellfish and Water Protection have issued an urgent press release to their media outlets and we have been doing the same thing. The testing results have come in and the last death from PSP in the state happened in Clallam County when levels were as high as they are now. With extremely low tides during prime day light hours this weekend please pass on this message to county employees. Clallam County is closed to ALL SPECIES of shellfish from Cape Flattery to Dungeness Spit.


Stay safe out there!
Valerie Lindborg
Lab Coordinator

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