PSP has been in the news recently because of a bloom on the Washington and Oregon Coasts.

Here’s some backstory!

  • PSP (aka paralytic shellfish poisoning) is a potentially deadly biotoxin produced by a specific type of algae.
  • Like all harmful algae blooms (HABs), it cannot be cooked out of the shellfish.
  • It’s naturally occurring and can happen in cold or warm water.
  • It’s not red, although this is usually what folks mean when they say “red tide.”
  • Regulators test and monitor for safety.
  • Shellfish farmers work very closely with the Department of Health to keep our product safe from biotoxins.

Bottom line: You are not going to get sick from a biotoxin if you eat shellfish grown and harvested from a reputable supplier.

There’s always a big media and messaging push during a bloom because it’s essential that recreational harvesters get the memo. As a rule of thumb, if you're harvesting shellfish for fun (including on a noncommercial private beach) check the shellfish safety map to make sure there isn't a biotoxin closure.

The current PSP bloom is on the Coast, far from our farms in Hood Canal and Puget Sound. PSP blooms are fortunately rare.

A normal summertime oyster safety risk is Vibrio parahaemolyticus (VP) bacteria, which proliferates in warm sea water and, if present, can make you sick if you eat the oysters raw. Vibrio causes a stomach bug and is usually mild, but can be serious in folks with underlying health conditions. This is why we warn you that consuming raw or undercooked oysters increases the risk of foodborne illness, especially for people with underlying medical conditions.

We reduce the risk of vibrio by handling oysters carefully and switching our harvest operations to areas where the water stays cold all summer. As of now (mid June, 2024) we are not harvesting oysters to eat raw from Hood Canal unless they’ve been treated very specifically to reduce bacteria levels - and we recommend that you also do not eat oysters raw off the beach in Hood Canal. Just cook them!

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