We won’t deny it: the prospect of eating fresh clams and mussels that you caught yourself is quite enticing.

But not all self-harvested seafood is safe to eat. In fact, Island Health has issued an advisory after several people on southern Vancouver Island got sick from eating self-harvested shellfish from closed areas this month.

According to the advisory, increased toxins in warmer ocean water during the summer can accumulate in shellfish without giving it the appearance of having gone bad – and cooking will not get rid of these toxins entirely.

Illness and symptoms

One possible illness caused by a toxin called saxitoxin is Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP).

Symptoms of serious shellfish poisoning include seizures, unstable blood pressure, paralysis, difficulty breathing, coma and possible death. In mild cases, symptoms may include tingling, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, headache, dizziness, muscle weakness, disorientation, memory loss, loss of coordination, or difficulty swallowing.

These indicators can manifest in a poisoned individual within minutes and/or up to 24 hours after eating the shellfish.

The BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) has made this map available to self-harvesters with information from Fisheries and Oceans Canada to help you determine which areas are closed for shellfish harvesting.

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