The annual quarantine of mussels in California started Wednesday, and the public is advised to not consume any mussels until further notice.
"The quarantine is beginning earlier this year because testing by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has detected elevated levels of domoic acid and high numbers of the algae that produce this toxin," a CDPH press release states.
Del Norte and Humboldt counties had longer quarantines than usual this year after high levels of Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning toxins were detected in mussels collected from the area.
Although naturally occurring, both toxins are poisonous, even lethal, to humans at high levels.
The Del Norte County Environmental Health Department recently had mussels tested from Point St. George that were collected on March 30. Although below the federal alert level, the mussels showed a higher level of PSP toxins than typical for this time of year.
"The quarantine is in place to protect the public against poisoning that can lead to severe illness, including coma and death," said Dr. Ron Chapman, CDPH director and state health officer. "It is critical that the public honor this quarantine, as toxins found in mussels have no known antidotes. These toxins are not reliably destroyed by cooking."
Clams and scallops can still be consumed, but authorities warn the public to remove and discard the digestive organs, viscera or any other dark parts. Only the white meat of the scallops and clams should be eaten.