Wash. closes geoduck harvesting area

Washington state officials have shut down geoduck harvesting on 135 acres of state-owned aquatic land while they investigate toxicity concerns that prompted China to ban West Coast shellfish.

In early December, the state learned that China had banned the import of clams, oysters, mussels and scallops from much of the North American West Coast, saying it had detected paralytic shellfish poison and arsenic in geoducks.

The Seattle Times reports (http://is.gd/td5noN ) state officials learned this week that Chinese authorities detected arsenic in a shipment of geoduck clams from Washington. The state Health Department traced that shipment back to clams harvested in October by the Puyallup Tribe in Poverty Bay, near Federal Way.

The state Department of Natural Resources manages more than 2.6 million acres of state-owned aquatic lands and sells the right to harvest geoduck. DNR says the Puyallup Tribe has suspended its usual harvesting on the parcel.

Health department spokesman Tim Church says there are no federal safety standards for arsenic in shellfish because it’s not typically an issue. He says past tests have never found arsenic levels that would be a concern. He says officials are considering more testing.