The Recreational Shellfish Program provides information to the public about where and how to harvest molluscan shellfish that are safe to eat. Molluscan shellfish can be identified by their hinged shells and include clams, mussels, oysters, geoduck, and scallops.
We evaluate marine water quality and examine shorelines for pollution sources, and classify recreational beaches as Open, Closed, or Advisory based on that evaluation.
We monitor shellfish and beaches for biotoxins, vibrio, and pollution, and temporarily close beaches when levels present a danger to human health.
We inform the public when we close a recreational (public) beach, letting them know that shellfish in that area are not safe to eat. We issue a news release and notify the local health department about the closure. We also post closure information on our website and include it in our recorded hotline (see sidebar on the right). Danger, Warning, or Closure Signs (PDF) are placed on the beach, but they are often vandalized or stolen. Beachgoers should not count on warning signs to let them know if a beach is closed for harvest.
We are actively involved in public outreach and education about recreational harvesting. You can often find our shellfish booth at fairs that typically attract recreational harvesters where we offer informational brochures, a shellfish filter feeding demonstration, and staff are on hand to answer questions. We also provide educational opportunities to communities, schools, and clubs that are interested in learning about shellfish harvest.