The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) is warning consumers to not eat recreationally harvested mussels and clams, commercially or recreationally caught anchovy and sardines, or internal organs of commercially or recreationally caught crab and lobster from the northern Channel Islands. The Islands are offshore of Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. Dangerous levels of the nerve toxin domoic acid have been detected in some of those species. The toxin may also be present in other species of shellfish, crustaceans, and fish in that area.
Domoic acid is a naturally occurring toxin that can cause illness or death in human beings. Symptoms of domoic acid poisoning usually occur with 30 minutes to 24 hours after eating contaminated seafood. Symptoms may include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, headache, and dizziness in mild cases. In severe cases, patients may have difficulty breathing, confusion, disorientation, cardiovascular instability, seizures, excessive bronchial secretions, permanent loss of short-term memory, coma, and death.
In California, there is an annual mussel quarantine that occurs because of dangerous levels of biotoxins in the shellfish. Whe quarantine only applies to recreational or sport-harvested mussels. Commercially grown mussels are exempt from the quarantine. This quarantine is put in place to protect the public against paralytic shellfish poisoning and domoic acid poisoning.
The quarantine is usually in effect from May 1 trough October 31. That time period encompasses more than 99% of all paralytic shellfish poisoning cases reported in California since 1927. For updated information about shellfish poisoning and quarantines, call the CDPH “Shellfish Information Line” at 1-800-553-4133.