Alaska Sea Grant in the News

Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP) advisory

Date: May 7, 1998

FAIRBANKS, Alaska--The spring's first case this week of paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) of a Juneau woman is a reminder to all coastal Alaskans of the need to be aware of this potentially deadly marine toxin.

Most cases of PSP occur in May and June, when thousands of Alaskans dig and eat untested clams, mussels, oysters and other shellfish. The only sure way to avoid PSP is to not eat untested shellfish. The state of Alaska does not monitor or certify beaches as safe for recreational shellfish harvesting.

PSP is a naturally occurring toxin caused by a marine organism, called a dinoflagellate, that accumulates in the digestive tissues and sometimes the meat of shellfish. While it does not hurt the shellfish, people who eat tainted shellfish can become extremely ill and sometimes die.

The only safe shellfish are those available for sale in the supermarket or seafood store. All shellfish sold in Alaska must pass a stringent test that screens for PSP.

Much more information about PSP is available at our web site.

For more information, contact the nearest Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program office in the following communities:

Anchorage, 907-274-9691
Petersburg, 907-772-3381
Sitka, 907-747-3988
Kodiak, 907-486-1500
Dillingham, 907-842-1265
Homer, 907-235-5643
Cordova, 907-424-3446

The Alaska Sea Grant College Program is a marine research, education and outreach service headquartered at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences. It is funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in partnership with the state of Alaska and private industry.

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