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Shellfish alert in effect for south coast.

Byline: REBECCA NOLAN The Register-Guard

COOS BAY - Laboratory tests have detected a worrisome level of a naturally occurring shellfish toxin along the south coast, prompting the Oregon Department of Agriculture to ban recreational and commercial shellfish harvesting from south of Coos Bay to the California border.

The agency announced the closure Friday. Until the ban is lifted, people should not harvest clams or mussels from beaches, rocks or jetties in the affected area.

Only the adductor muscle of coastal scallops should be eaten, the agency said. The rest of the animal should be thrown away.

Commercial oysters and clams already on the market have been tested and ruled safe for consumption.

Shellfish toxin blooms are produced by algae and usually originate in the ocean. Contaminated shellfish can cause serious illness and possibly death. Symptoms include tingling, burning, numbness, drowsiness, incoherent speech and in severe cases, respiratory paralysis.

Toxin blooms are fairly common in the summer, said Deb Cannon, shellfish program specialist. As a result, the Agriculture Department conducts weekly tests on shellfish from April to October to measure the level of the toxin in the meat.

The agency is quick to close beaches to harvesting when relatively small amounts of the toxin are detected, because contamination often increases in concentration and spreads along the coast.

"We do have a fairly protective testing level," Cannon said. "It's just starting to go up, and it might extend further to the north."

All bays in the affected area remain open, except for the jetties at the entrances to the bays. Shellfish near beaches north of Coos Bay up to the Columbia River tested safe.

The agency will continue to monitor and test for shellfish toxins weekly. To reopen a closed area, two sets of samples must come back below the toxic level.

BEACH CLOSURES

For more information, call the Oregon Department of Agriculture's shellfish hotline at (503) 986-4728 or visit the agency's Web site at oda.state.or.us/ODA/alerts.html.
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Title Annotation:Toxin bloom: Harvesting is banned from south of Coos Bay to the California border.; Agriculture
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Aug 3, 2002
Words:329
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