Fisheries officials warn that the increase in illegal clam fishing in British Columbia may increase the risk of fatal poisoning

Flora Qu said frankly that digging clams is not easy, but she said that given the restrictions of the pandemic, this seems to be a good way to get out of the house.

“the first time [I’ve] She and a friend spent hours digging on the Centennial Beach in the Delta of British Columbia, south of Vancouver.

Qu said she did not know that fishing for shellfish such as clams and mussels (called bivalves) was illegal in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia.

The Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) prohibits the use of bivalve shellfish fishing because of pollution and naturally-occurring toxins. This fishing is due to pollution and natural toxins in the bays and inlets of the entire Metro Vancouver area and the upper reaches of the Fraser River. .

Bivalve molluscs are the keepers of filters, and experts say this means that any contaminants in the water may accumulate in them and make them potentially fatal to humans who consume them.

Fisheries officials told CBC News that the number of clam diggers increased sharply during the pandemic, and this trend has raised concerns about the potential toxicity of shellfish harvested in the region.

Bivalve shellfish such as clams, mussels, oysters and scallops are filters, they can accumulate contaminants from water in their digestive system and tissues. (Suzanne da Silva/CBC)

Art Demsky, commander of the DFO Detachment, said: “This is three times the number of encounters.” “The most terrible worry is that someone will get sick or even die.”

He said that even if shellfish are handled, people will get sick.

“Especially the children,” he said. “They like to play with things, maybe they like to collect shellfish, and then, of course, they put their fingers in their mouths. So, this is very worrying.”

If eaten, the natural toxins produced by phytoplankton in the water can cause diarrhea, forgetfulness and paralytic shellfish poisoning. Paralytic shellfish poisoning can be fatal.

Demsky said that stopping illegal logging is a top priority, but DFO’s efforts are restricted by the vast area of ??the region.

Art Demsky, commander of the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans, recently seized more than 800 illegally caught shellfish in Port Moody, British Columbia. He said that when encountering these illegal shellfish catchers, education is a priority for fishery officials, but fines are another option. (Art Demsky / Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans)

“They just ignore us”

Richard Wong often visits Centennial Beach to catch crabs-which is legal under seasonal and licensed conditions-and the number of clam digging has increased.

Wong said, “I tried to tell them…’You shouldn’t pick up those things.’ “But when we walked away and turned around, they started picking again. “

Crabs that can be licensed under seasonal and size and quantity restrictions. Some people who often catch crabs in the Boundary Bay, including Richard Wong, say they have found that the number of illegal shellfish fishing has increased significantly. (Tristan Le Rudulier / CBC)

Tira Chow started catching crabs last year and she said she was surprised to see so many clams gathering.

She said: “I mentioned it to a few people, but they just ignored you.” “So, I just think more signs should be posted.”

Both Chow and Wong believe that the English symbols posted are not enough, and multiple languages ??are needed.

But Demsky said that given the diverse ethnic backgrounds of the shellfish collectors, this is difficult. He said that DFO has published brochures in multiple languages ??and published information in various languages ??on social media and newspapers.

A warning sign was posted at the entrance of the beach to warn of the danger of shellfish fishing, but some people said that more signs and signs in more languages ??are needed. Officials say they have produced brochures and social media posts in multiple languages. (Suzanne da Silva/CBC)

New closed map released

The British Columbia Centers for Disease Control (BCCDC), which tracks disease cases, is also working to make it easier for people to become familiar with the rules.

this is Launch an updated website All enclosed locations are shown this week, and there is a guide that tells people exactly what different shellfish are like.

“A lot of times, we get poisoned and people say,’Oh, I collected some clams.’ When we asked them, “What kind of clams did you get? “They don’t know,” said Lorraine McIntyre, a food safety expert at BCCDC.

She said that three people reported shellfish disease in April, compared with one in 2020 and one a year ago. But she said that many people did not report the disease, and some cases can only be confirmed by testing contaminated shellfish, not the person.

Toxins are resistant to cooking

McIntyre said that you can be a safe clam about this idea, but that’s not the case.

She said: “Although cooking can prevent bacterial diseases, it has no effect on toxins.” “They are resistant to cooking. In fact, sometimes toxins become more effective after cooking.”

A few hours of work can produce a basket full of clams. Fisheries officials worry that people are underestimating the risk of harvesting contaminated shellfish. (Suzanne da Silva/CBC)

McIntyre said that for anyone who feels unwell after eating shellfish, it is vital that they contact a doctor or conduct poison control immediately.

Demsky said that although the disease should act as a deterrent, it should also be fined. People arrested for illegally fishing shellfish risk tickets start at US$250 and impose a fine of up to US$100,000 on each shellfish.

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