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As people flock to B.C. beaches, fisheries officers are concerned about shellfish harvesters who may be unaware they are risking their lives by disobeying closures.

“It’s very, very dangerous,” said Art Demsky, a supervisor with Fisheries and Oceans Canada in Langley. “I’m very concerned someone could die.”

At least 15 people have been partly paralyzed by contaminated seafood in B.C. over the past four years, and one victim was totally paralyzed and lost the ability to breathe, said Tom Kosatsky, medical director of the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, last November.

WEST VANCOUVER, BC, DFO warning about poison in shellfish..................(Photo credit: Francis Georgian / Postmedia) , Vancouver. VancouvrReporter: , ( Francis Georgian / PNG staff [PNG Merlin Archive]
DFO is warning about a poisonous toxin in shellfish. Francis Georgian/PNG

Almost every beach between the northern tip of Vancouver Island and the U.S. border is either closed or partly closed to harvesting, according to a biotoxin status map maintained by the BCCDC.

Last month, a person in Alaska died of paralytic shellfish poisoning after eating snails and mussels harvested from a beach, while in March, three people in B.C. were stricken but survived after eating butter clams harvested off the North Coast.

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