Harvests of all bivalves, including razor clams (pictured), are off limits in most areas of B.C.’s North Coast due to a sudden rise in biotoxins. (File photo)

Harvests of all bivalves, including razor clams (pictured), are off limits in most areas of B.C.’s North Coast due to a sudden rise in biotoxins. (File photo)

Marine biotoxins force closure of North Coast shellfish harvesting

Blooms on the rise during winter months

Fisheries and Oceans Canada has shut down nearly all bivalve shellfish harvesting on the North Coast due to a rapid rise in marine biotoxins.

Haida Gwaii, including the Skidegate and Masset Inlets, and all other popular harvest areas near Prince Rupert, Bella Coola and Kitimat are affected.

Causes of the closures vary between paralytic shellfish poisoning (red tide), domoic acid poisoning, diarrhetic shellfish poisoning and other marine toxins affecting oysters, clams, scallops, mussels and geoduck.

In the past four years, DFO warns, there have been significant increases of biotoxin blooms around the province during the winter months.

READ MORE: Three people from Prince Rupert area recovering from shellfish poisoning

“It’s just not uncommon anymore,” a DFO spokesperson said. “And that’s the message we’re really trying to tell everyone — really, really make sure you check the DFO website before you harvest. Don’t go with the old-wives’ tale that the months ending in ‘r’ are safe for harvesting.”

As of 1 p.m. on Oct. 15 the very few openings in northern subareas include Haida Gwaii’s North Shore for butter and razor clam harvests, and extremely specific areas for various scallop species around Digby Island near Prince Rupert. There are seven openings around Kitimat but none near Bella Coola.

See the DFO notice for details and maps.



quinn.bender@blackpress.ca