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Much of the Oregon Coast remains closed due to elevated toxin levels

Clatsop Beach razor clamming to open October 1

September 26, 2003© Testing conducted this week reveals domoic acid
levels are in the safe range for razor clams collected from Clatsop
Beach, the area north of Tillamook Head to the Columbia River South
Jetty, clearing the way for the beach to open October 1 when the
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) conservation closure
ends.

The beaches south of Seaside to the California border remain closed
to razor clamming due to a separate bloom of the algae that produces
domoic acid. Razor clams on the central coast were well above the
safe level when tested earlier this month.

Both clams and mussels are closed to harvest from Coos Bay south to
the California border due to paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP)
toxins above the safe level. This closure began September 12, 2003.
Re-testing conducted this week shows the level of PSP toxins is still
rising in this area. Shellfish contaminated with PSP toxins can
cause minor to severe illness.

The Clatsop Beach closure began in October 2002 when levels of domoic
acid exceeded the domoic acid alert level. The central and south
coast razor clams were added to the closure by the end of 2002.
Razor clams retain domoic acid in the edible tissue and purge the
toxin slowly.

Razor clams on the central and south beaches were affected by a
second bloom of domoic acid-producing algae in June 2003, increasing
the level dangerously high. Levels have begun to drop but still can
cause mild to severe symptoms for consumers who might defy the
closure.

Domoic acid is a naturally occurring toxin produced by marine
phytoplankton or algae. Eating shellfish contaminated with domoic
acid can cause minor illness within minutes to hours after
consumption. The toxin cannot be destroyed by cooking, adding baking
soda, or any other method. In mild cases, symptoms can include
vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps and headache. More severe cases
of domoic acid poisoning can result in memory problems and even
death. Anyone experiencing symptoms after consuming razor clams
should contact a physician.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) oversees the shellfish
toxin monitoring program. ODFW and special permitted volunteers
assist ODA in collecting razor clams. More sites and clam species
have been sampled than in past years in an effort to define closure
areas. Other species of clams, other than razor clams, collected from
well inside bays (past entrances, jetties, or spits), continue to
test within the safe range for domoic acid and PSP poisoning.

Updates on shellfish toxin closures are available through ODA's
Shellfish Hotline (503-986-4728) and online at <www.oda.state.or.us>
in the "Warnings and Alerts" section of ODA's website. For more
information, contact Deb Cannon at (503) 986-4720.
 
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