“Who Does That?”

Our shellfish maps keep your food safe…and delicious!

Last summer I received a string of panicked texts from a friend — I’ll call her Maggie — hoping my work in the Environmental Public Health Division at DOH could help her.

“I am mildly freaking out about a shellfish issue,” the texts began.

Maggie’s daughter had been on an overnight retreat on an island in the Puget Sound and had recounted her adventures to her mother.

“They thought for some reason it would be a good idea to take oysters off the beach and cook and eat them.” Maggie’s exasperated texts continued, “WHO DOES THAT?”

Razor clams

Actually, lots of people do! Fortunately for Maggie, and anyone wanting to safely harvest shellfish in Washington, DOH and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife teamed up in 2016 to improve the Shellfish Safety Map. The one-stop map has pollution, biotoxin and other health-related shellfish closures and advisories, as well as information about where shellfish can be legally harvested from public beaches. [While an anxious text to a friend worked in this case, we recommend consulting the map prior to harvesting shellfish such as clams, mussels and oysters.]

I sent Maggie the link to the mobile Shellfish Safety Map. From there she was able to easily see if the beach her daughter had been on was open for harvesting and had any health warnings. [Spoiler alert — the beach was open, no health warnings and Maggie’s daughter is fine.]

Before we had the improved map, folks wanting to gather clams or oysters had to visit two separate webpages to find out if harvest was open and where it was safe. Working together, the two agencies built a single interactive map with customer-friendly features that include harvest seasons and current health status for recreational shellfish harvesting.

Judging from the growing number of visits, people really “dig” the map. In 2016, the map had about 265,000 visits. In 2017, there were over one million visits!

Washington’s beaches — clean and safe.

Along with the Shellfish Safety Map, Maggie’s daughter — and every other recreational shellfish harvester — can visit the Recreational Shellfish Facebook page for information about our Recreational Shellfish Program and shellfish harvesting in Washington.

The DOH website has even more information about biotoxins, illness prevention and our Recreational Shellfish Program.

Liz Coleman is the communications lead for the Environmental Public Health division at DOH. Her bucket list for 2018 includes getting more sleep, building a deck and a family trip to the beach that includes clamming.

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