Susan Buckley, RN, Director, Public Health
Ira Singh, MPH, Deputy Director
Donald I. Baird, MD, Health Officer

Division of Environmental Health


Date Released: 10/28/2010
Subject: Annual quarantine of sport harvested mussels will end Sunday, October 31
Contact: Harriet Hill, Registered Environmental Health Specialist,
Phone: (707) 445-6215

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) announced today that the statewide annual quarantine on mussels taken by sport harvesters from California’s ocean waters ends at midnight on Sunday, October 31 for all coastal counties. Sampling of mussels along the mainland coastal counties confirmed that shellfish-borne paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) toxins and domoic acid are at safe or undetectable levels.

For Southern California, the health advisory issued by CDPH on October 16 remains in effect. This advisory warns consumers not to eat sport-harvested shellfish or some parts of crustaceans or small finfish from offshore near the Channel Islands. Elevated levels of the toxin domoic acid have been detected in recent samples from this offshore region.

The annual quarantine is issued for the entire California coastline, usually from May 1 through October 31. The quarantine applies only to sport-harvested mussels. Commercially harvested shellfish are not included in the quarantine as other steps are taken to assure oysters, clams and mussels entering the marketplace are free of toxins.

PSP is a form of nervous system poisoning. Concentrated levels of the PSP toxins can develop in mussels and other bivalve shellfish when they feed on certain naturally occurring marine plankton.

A second form of poisoning, Domoic Acid Poisoning (DAP) -- sometimes referred to as Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning (ASP) -- has been linked to natural food sources for filter-feeding animals like bivalve shellfish. No known cases of human ASP have occurred in California to date. Domoic acid has been linked to several poisonings of marine mammals along the Pacific Coast and may have caused several mild cases of human poisoning in the state of Washington.

CDPH’s shellfish sampling and testing programs for PSP and ASP issue warnings or quarantines when needed. The Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services Division of Environmental Health, various state and federal agencies and others participate in the monitoring program.

Consumers can receive updated information about shellfish poisoning by calling the "Shellfish Information Line" at (800) 553-4133.


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