Shellfish harvest resuming in bay


Hog Island Oyster Company started selling oysters from the outer reaches of Tomales Bay last week, after a sample harvest was cleared by the California Department of Public Health for consumption. Shellfish harvest had been banned in the entire bay since Dec. 20 due to the presence of a dangerous biotoxin that causes a syndrome known as paralytic shellfish poisoning. The weeks-long prohibition was the first time the health department had ever closed the entire bay to commercial harvest in the winter, as the biotoxin more typically materializes between May and October. “All the growers in the bay are currently still taking samples to evaluate level of P.S.P. in bay, but it looks like it’s definitely trending downward,” said Hog Island’s director of farm operations, Eric Schlagenhauf, who hopes that within the next week the biotoxin will completely vacate the bay. On Wednesday, Mr. Schlagenhauf said he was planning to pull a sample harvest of clams and mussels, which are known to retain the toxin for longer periods of time than oysters. Martin Seiler, the general manager at Tomales Bay Oyster Company, said their inner-bay leases are on a second-stage alert for oysters, which means they can harvest those bivalves within 24 hours of a clean test. Mussels in the inner bay are still off limits. For up-to-date information on recreational harvesting, which is still banned in the bay, call the shellfish hotline at (800) 553.4133.