Red tide closes shellfish farms, stops harvesting

Paralytic shellfish poisoning considered a real concern

Red tide (PSP) closures remain in effect for the Oceanside area, meaning the area is closed to harvesting all bivalve shellfish (oysters, clams, scallops, mussels and geoducks.)

Maria Surry, a resource management biologist with Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), said that if eaten the shellfish can be toxic.

“The risk is if you eat shellfish that’s contaminated with PSP you can become seriously ill and possibly even die,” she said.

PSP, or paralytic shellfish poisoning, occurs from eating shellfish that has fed upon toxic dinoflagellates, a type of one celled microscopic organism which forms an important part of the ocean plankton, according to the DFO website. Some species, such as butter clams, can retain the toxins for long periods of time.

Surry said the Canadian Food Inspection Agency test the waters weekly for contamination and update their website accordingly. 

PSP as well as Sanitary closures are currently in effect in areas surrounding Vancouver Island.

To reduce risks, DFO recommends people check for closures in the areas they plan to harvest.

Cooking does not destroy the toxin. 

Visit for closures or call 1-866-431-3474.

Recognize the signs of poisoning

Symptoms of PSP include tingling of lips and tongue which may spread to fingers and toes, headache, or dizziness. As the effect of the toxin progresses, there could be a loss of muscular co-ordination, paralysis, and inability to breathe.

At first sign of symptoms DFO recommends inducing vomiting, taking a laxative and drinking water with baking soda. Seek medical attention immediately, do not wait to see if symptoms progress.