Geoducks and horse clams off Haida Gwaii and Tofino are now on DFO’s no-harvest list.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada announced the closures July 10, which include Area 2 and 24. On Haida Gwaii, North Beach remains open for razor-clam harvesting.
People who eat contaminated geoduck could get paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP), which in extreme cases can be deadly.
“One result was because the sample came back above acceptable standards,” said DFO’s Elysha Gordon, the Canadian Shellfish Sanitation Program Coordinator. “I will open and close an area based on test results, whether the area is clean and free of toxic algae or not.”
PSP can paralyze the respiratory system. Gordon said four people were recently hospitalized in Saanich for showing symptoms of PSP.
“Your body knows what’s going on, your brain knows what’s going on but you’re paralyzed including your breathing,” Gordon said. “They have to breathe for you until the toxin wears off. It can be quite scary.
“It’s not something you can cook and destroy,” she added.
The other areas affected by the July 10 closure were because samples had not been sent to be tested. Without proof that no contaminants are present, an area is automatically closed.
Much of the North Coast is always closed to bivalve shellfish harvesting, which includes geoduck, clams, oysters, scallops and mussels. Except for an area between Digby Island and the Lucy Islands off the coast of Prince Rupert, where only scallops can be harvested, Area 4 is also closed to shellfish harvesting. There is a full closure for shellfish harvesting from Areas 5 to 10, which stretch from Banks Island to Herbert Point.
Gordon recommends looking at the DFO for up-to-date closures, and added that it is illegal to harvest in a closed area.
“Check before you dig,” she said.