MUSSEL QUARANTINE EXTENSION ONE FOR THE BOOKS
This year's sport-harvested shellfish quarantine in Humboldt and Del Norte counties is unusual.
"This is an annual quarantine that's put into place every May 1, and generally goes through Oct. 31," Environmental Health Specialist Shannon Hinrichs said.
But this year, it was extended. Hinrichs said it’s a first as far back as records will show.
"We take samples throughout the quarantine and in October the test results came back positive for the bio-toxins they're tested for," Hinrichs said.
The toxin is called "Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning" or PSP, it’s a naturally occurring toxin produced by algae in the water that causes paralysis to humans.
"Locally here, Alexandrium is a genus of a dinoflagellate that can produce that toxin," Humboldt State Graduate Greg O’Connell said.
O'Connell collects samples once a week for the Department of Health and Human Services.
"I’ll do a plankton tow through the water in Humboldt Bay and Trinidad Bay to concentrate all the organisms and various particles that are in the water," O’Connell said.
Anyone can volunteer. O'Connell chooses to collect water samples so he can learn more about the ocean, while helping out.
"I don't actually collect mussel samples myself,” O’Connell said. “But other folks can do that. So they can collect mussel samples, clam samples, things like that."
In Humboldt County the quarantine is only for sport-harvested mussels.
"The Del Norte quarantine is for sport-harvested, mussels, clams and scallops,” Hinrichs said.
The quarantine excludes commercial shellfish because they are regulated.
It's unsure what’s causing the quarantine to last this long, but tests will be done every few weeks to determine when it can lifted.