Mussel closure spreads up the Oregon Coast

COOS COUNTY, Ore. -- Toxins found in mussels have led to harvesting closures on beaches along the South Coast for the past month.

The closure has now expanded north to Lincoln County.

The state checks twice a month for toxins found in mussels, and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife says that instead of things getting better, they've gotten worse.

Mussel harvesting is now closed from the California border north to the Yachats River due to contamination.

Scott Groth, a shellfish biologist for ODFW, says eating the potentially toxic mussels could be deadly. "Elevated levels of a toxin, that can cause paralytic shellfish poisoning," Groth said.

He says it comes from the mussels eating algae that produces natural toxins. "Depending on what phytoplankton are out there blooming, you could have continued elevation," he said.

They aren't harmful to the touch but if you eat them, Groth says it could mean bad news. "The poison has caused death in the past."

The good news: the mussels shed the toxins with time. "We expect it to reduce in the near future," said Groth.

Even though the beaches are closed for mussels, they're still open for crabbing and clamming.