County LogoClallam County, Washington

Shellfish Program

Clallam County Environmental Health Services (CCEH) works with Washington State Department of Health (DOH) and other local stakeholders to preserve and restore high quality recreational and commercial shellfish harvesting areas along coastal borders. Washington is the leading producer of farmed shellfish in the nation, but many beaches and commercial growing areas have been closed or ‘downgraded’ by the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) due to contamination. The Environmental Health Services Shellfish Program focuses on marine biotoxin monitoring and notification along with public education.

Biotoxin Monitoring and Notification

Marine biotoxins are poisons that are produced by certain kinds of microscopic algae (a type of phytoplankton) that are naturally present in marine waters, normally in amounts too small to be harmful. However, a combination of warm temperatures, sunlight, and nutrient-rich waters can cause rapid plankton reproduction, or "blooms." These blooms are commonly referred to as harmful algal blooms or "HABs" because of their potential to cause illness. Biotoxins are byproducts of certain types of microscopic marine algae. Harmful biotoxins include Paralytic Shellfish Poison (PSP), Amnesic Shellfish Poison (ASP), and Diarrhetic Shellfish Poison (DSP).

CCEH coordinates the Olympic Baywatchers for PSP monitoring at two sites in Sequim Bay. Environmental Health Services also samples mussels at Ediz Hook biweekly to check for PSP. All of the samples collected along Clallam County beaches are sent to the Washington State Department of Health Laboratory to be tested. If a beach is closed by the State Department of Health, Clallam County notifies the public of the closure.

shellfish photo

Marine Biotoxin (Red Tide) Hotline
Dept. of Health Shellfish Safety Map

Volunteer Opportunities

CCEH coordinates volunteer opportunities related to Water Quality and Shellfish monitoring. The success of our shellfish restoration programs is not possible without the assistance of our volunteers. If you are interested in volunteering, please contact us at 360-417-2258.

  • Baywatchers - collect samples for Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning monitoring
  • BEACH volunteers - monitor selected saltwater swimming beaches for bacteria pollution
  • Streamkeepers - assess a variety of biological, physical, and chemical stream health indicators
  • Pollution Identification and Correction program - works to to identify, investigate, and prevent sources of pollution by coordinating certain Streamkeeper volunteer monitoring activities

Shellfish Safety

Toxic Shellfish SignThe Washington State Department of Health licenses and inspects commercial and recreational shellfish operations for safety and quality. Clallam County Health regularly sends samples to DOH labs, and utilizes health information provided by the department.

It is important to have a plan before going out to harvest shellfish. ALWAYS check for beach closures either online, or calling the 24 hour Marine Biotoxin (Red Tide) hotline 1–800–562–5632. If you have additional questions contact the Shellfish Safety program directly at 360-236-3330 or the local health department of the area being harvested during weekday business hours. Beaches closed for recreational shellfishing will also have signs posted on site for public education of health hazards. Not all species are restricted at all times, so become familiar with different species to be able to identify species that are safe for harvest.

Molluscan shellfish are filter-feeders that ingest small particles from their surroundings, including biotoxins. Under certain circumstances, marine biotoxins ingested from eating shellfish can lead to serious health consequences. Most toxins are produced by algae and are not visibly noticeable or able to be cooked out of the shellfish, and have no antidote. Be sure to acquaint yourself with possible hazards related to shellfish consumption.

Tides are tracked for public safety and convenience.  Be sure to check for low tide before gathering shellfish, which is the best time to harvest.

Shellfish Regulations

Shellfish regulations are enforced by the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife. Refer to their shellfish page for the most up to date information. An extensive pamphlet is available online as a free download, which contains everything you need to know before harvesting. WDFW also has an excellent Recreational Shellfish Harvest video that serves as a shellfishing 101 crash course. The video includes how to dig for and where to find various species of shellfish.Clam Plate

Recreational Shellfish Harvesting

Commercial Shellfishing

The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) is responsible for issuing licenses and certification for commercial shellfish operations. For information about commercial shellfishing, contact the Office of Shellfish and Water Protection 360-236-3330.

Clallam County Health & Human Services
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