• UAF Cooperative Extension Service offers Certified Food Protection Manager class by videoconference March 3 in Sitka

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Wednesday, Feb. 17, is the registration deadline for a certified food protection manager workshop being taught on Thursday, March 3, by University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service. This is an all-day statewide class that will be offered by videoconferencing to Fairbanks, Palmer, Juneau, Petersburg, Sitka, Craig, Angoon, Klukwan, and Tenakee.

A certified food protection manager (CFPM) is responsible for monitoring and managing all food establishment operations to ensure that the facility is operating in compliance with food establishment regulations.

A CFPM is knowledgeable about food safety practices and uses this knowledge to provide consumers with safe food, protect public health and prevent food-borne illnesses. Alaska regulations require food establishments to have at least one CFPM on staff.

This course takes place from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (with a half-hour lunch), and participants will take a computer-based exam at the end of the class. The reason the deadline is two weeks before the class is to guarantee course materials reach all the students in time for the class. The cost is $200, and the course will be taught by Julie Cascio of Palmer. Students can register here.

The Sitka videoconference for the class will take place in Room 110 at the University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus. To learn more, contact Jasmine Shaw at the Sitka District Office of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service at 747-9440, or contact Kathy McDougall at (907) 474-2420 (Fairbanks number) or kmmcdougall@alaska.edu. Note, this class is taught in English but textbooks are available in Korean, Chinese and Spanish, just contact Kathy at least three weeks before the class.

Also, the ServSafe book ($60) and certification exam ($75) now are available online, if people want to order the book and study independently without taking the class. Just go to this website and purchase the book and exam items.

• UAF Cooperative Extension Service offers Certified Food Protection Manager class by videoconference July 29 in Sitka

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Thursday, July 17, is the registration deadline for a certified food protection manager workshop being taught on Wednesday, July 29, by University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service. This is an all-day statewide class that will be offered by videoconferencing to Fairbanks, Palmer, Juneau, Valdez, and Sitka.

A certified food protection manager (CFPM) is responsible for monitoring and managing all food establishment operations to ensure that the facility is operating in compliance with food establishment regulations.

A CFPM is knowledgeable about food safety practices and uses this knowledge to provide consumers with safe food, protect public health and prevent food-borne illnesses. Alaska regulations require food establishments to have at least one CFPM on staff.

This course takes place from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (with a half-hour lunch), and participants will take a computer-based exam at the end of the class. The reason the deadline is two weeks before the class is to guarantee course materials reach all the students in time for the class. The cost is $200, and the course will be taught by Marsha Munsell of Fairbanks and Julie Cascio of Palmer. Students can register here (scroll down and select the July 29 item).

The Sitka videoconference for the class will take place in Room 110 at the University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus. To learn more, contact Jasmine Shaw at the Sitka District Office of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service at 747-9440, or contact Kathy McDougall at (907) 474-2420 (Fairbanks number) or kmmcdougall@alaska.edu. Note, this class is taught in English but textbooks are available in Korean, Chinese and Spanish, just contact Kathy at least three weeks before the class.

Jasmine does have one extra book in her office, so she can accommodate one late registration from Sitka for the July 29 class. The next class will be Sept. 30, and Sitka is a tentative site for the videoconference. Also, the ServSafe book ($60) and certification exam ($75) now are available online, if people want to order the book and study independently without taking the class. Just go to this website and purchase the book and exam items.

• Alaskans Own community-supported fisheries program announces 2015 season subscription prices

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Sitka-based Alaskans Own seafood recently announced its subscription prices for its 2015 community-supported fisheries (CSF) program in Sitka, Juneau, Anchorage, and, new this year, Seattle.

Alaskans Own was the first CSF program in the state, modeling its program after the successful community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs that let customers deal directly with harvesters so they can buy subscription shares to the year’s crop/catch. In addition to the CSF program, Alaskans Own usually has a table at the Sitka Farmers Markets during the summer.

AO flier no tagsThis is the sixth year of the Alaskans Own CSF program, and there are four-month and six-month subscriptions available starting in May. The six-month subscriptions allow people to keep receiving freshly caught seafood through October instead of August, when the traditional four-month subscriptions end. Half-subscriptions also are available. Subscriptions include a mix of locally caught black cod (sablefish), halibut, king salmon, coho salmon, lingcod and miscellaneous rockfish, depending on the commercial fishing season and prices.

According to newly hired director Caroline Lester, this year’s price for a six-month full subscription (about 60 pounds, or 10 pounds a month) in Sitka is $886.16 (includes sales tax) and $446.40 for a half subscription (about 30 pounds). The price for a four-month full subscription (about 40 pounds) is $606.32 and $326.46 for a half subscription (about 20 pounds). Prices are slightly higher for the other communities participating in the program. People can use the Alaskans Own online store site to purchase their CSF shares. Deliveries in Sitka will be either the last or second-to-last Thursday of the month at the old mill building next to the Sitka Sound Science Center.

The Alaskans Own program is associated with the Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust. The Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust’s mission is to strengthen Alaskan fishing communities and marine resources through scientific research, education, and economic opportunity.

For more information, contact Caroline Lester at info@alaskansown.com or 738-2275.

• Registration opens for Southeast Alaska Farm and Fish to School Conference on April 2-3 in Juneau

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Registration has begun for the inaugural Southeast Alaska Farm and Fish to Schools Conference, which takes place April 2-3 at Centennial Hall in Juneau.

This event will be the first regional opportunity focused on building connections between Alaska’s school systems and local food entrepreneurs. Anyone interested in bringing more local foods into our school system is invited to collaborate and connect with regional experts to strengthen fish and farm to school programming across the state.

Southeast Conference, the regional economic development organization, is coordinating the conference in conjunction with the newly formed Sustainable Southeast Partnership, a diverse network of organizations working together on community sustainability in Southeast Alaska.

Farm&Fish-logo-on-photos Cropped“Often we find that the barriers to achieving access to local, healthy foods can be overcome if we work together as a region to make this initiative a priority,” said Alana Peterson, program director of the Sustainable Southeast Partnership, Haa Aani, Community Development Fund Inc. “By bringing all the key players together for a conference we are hoping to achieve just that.”

Fish and farm to school programming offers significant economic, environmental cultural and nutritional opportunities to our rural communities and region.

“Schools in southeast received more than $500,000 last year to buy Alaskan produced foods through the Nutritional Alaska Foods to Schools grant program.” said Shelly Wright, Executive Director of Southeast Conference. “However, schools are often limited by what they can procure. There are untapped opportunities for, farmers, fishermen and small business in our region. We are eager to break down barriers and grow the opportunities for everyone.”

Online registration and more detailed conference information is available at http://www.seconference.org/southeast-farm-and-fish-schools-conference. Register before Feb. 28 to be eligible for a travel stipend. For more information, contact Lia Heifetz at growsoutheast@gmail.com.

• Alaskans Own community-supported fisheries program announces 2014 season subscription prices

AO flier no tags

Sitka-based Alaskans Own seafood recently announced its subscription prices for its 2014 community-supported fisheries (CSF) program in Sitka, Juneau, and Anchorage. The prices appear to have gone down a tiny bit since the 2013 season.

Alaskans Own was the first CSF program in the state, modeling its program after the successful community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs that let customers deal directly with harvesters so they can buy subscription shares to the year’s crop/catch. In addition to the CSF program, Alaskans Own usually has a table at the Sitka Farmers Markets during the summer.

ErinFultonAshiaLaneAlaskansOwnSeafoodThis is the fifth year of the Alaskans Own CSF program, and there are four-month and six-month subscriptions available. The six-month subscriptions  allow people to keep receiving freshly caught seafood through October instead of August, when the traditional four-month subscriptions end. Half-subscriptions also are available. Subscriptions include a mix of locally caught black cod (sablefish), halibut, king salmon, coho salmon, lingcod and miscellaneous rockfish, depending on the commercial fishing season and prices.

The Alaskans Own program is associated with the Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust. The Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust’s mission is to strengthen Alaskan fishing communities and marine resources through scientific research, education, and economic opportunity.

Here is Alaskans Own CSF program information for 2014 provided in a recent email sent to the program’s past subscribers and other interested folk:

Hello, Sitka!

It’s that time of year again. The days are getting longer, the herring are back, and Alaskans Own CSF is gearing up for our 2014 season.

This summer looks to be another season filled with even better quality seafood than before. We’d love to have you join us and get access to the great local seafood the Sitka has to offer.

It is difficult to tell, at this point, how prices will trend through the season. Please be assured that we will always bring you the very best value, highest quality seafood that we can, meeting or exceeding the total number of pounds for the plan that you choose. We will make adjustments in specific items to preserve this value. Our small staff gratefully receives assistance from a number of volunteers to help keep costs down. Any and all ‘profits’ go to support the scientific work of the Fishery Conservation Networks.

  • Six months, Full share: $760 (60 pounds, ~ 10 lb. /month)
  • Six months, Half share: $400 (30 pounds, ~ 5 lb./month)s
  • Four months, Full share: $520 (40 pounds, ~ 10 lb./month)
  • Four months, Half share: $280 (20 pounds, ~ 5 lb./month)

To renew your subscription with Alaskans Own, please send me an email, or give me a call on the Alaskans Own phone 907-738-2275(*). Subscriptions can be paid for using cash, check or credit card. You can learn more about what we offer and the work we do on our website: www.alaskansown.com.

Thank you for all your support. I hope you’ll join Alaskans Own again this season to enjoy the best seafood from the finest fishermen in Southeast Alaska.

Cheers,
Erin Fulton, Programs Coordinator, Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust

* With the Sitka Sound Science Center under construction, we won’t be in our normal office space — email and the new AO phone will be the best way to reach us, and to schedule an ‘in person’ meeting.

• Buying local food during a Southeast Alaska summer

Sitka Local Foods Network Board Vice President Cathy Lieser distributes "Alaska Grown" bumper stickers during the July Fourth parade in Sitka (Photo by Heike Hüttenkofer)

Sitka Local Foods Network Board Vice President Cathy Lieser distributes “Alaska Grown” bumper stickers during the July Fourth parade in Sitka (Photo by Heike Hüttenkofer)

By CATHY LIESER
Sitka Local Foods Network Board Vice President

I am cooking on a boat throughout Southeast Alaska this summer, so on May 5, I planted seeds in my garden, covered it with bird netting and wished it well until my return. The text from my friend read, “the weeds are winning,” luckily I have an herb garden on the boat.

I have been on the hunt for local food in the towns where we provision. It was a late spring, so early on I watched plots greening up and took mental notes. There was kale and rhubarb in Tenakee, with one grower who sells on Friday — The Party Time Bakery — which uses local produce for delicious meals. We bought a rhubarb-berry pie fresh out of the oven and took it back to the boat.

In Juneau, we stocked up at Pinkies Fish Market where the mission is to create a local food economy by sourcing local seafood and other farm fresh items. I toured the Jensen-Olson Arboretum (click here for Facebook page) with Merrill Jensen while he shared about their process toward having a certified virus-free Tlingít potato. The Wild Oven sourdough bakery found me sampling chewy and flavorful loaves that I found out got better with age. At the Second Saturday Market, I bought greenhouse-fresh basil picked that morning.

I barely missed the first Sitka Farmers Market on July 6, but did raid my garden for spinach, kale, lettuce, corn salad and miner’s lettuce. I thank those who watered for me during the hot month of June. Our next boat destination was Petersburg, where I finally arrived on a day where two growers were selling.

The Garden, which participates in the Alaska Grown program, is an abundant oasis of organic produce in the middle of town. Tonna Parker has turned a family lot into a production powerhouse using French intensive methods. For the last four years she has sold direct to the community, just stop by on a Tuesday or Saturday to see what she has available. I bought cucumbers and snap peas that did not make it home, I snacked while Tonna gave me a tour. She has beautiful raised beds, chickens, ducks and compact greenhouses where she is able to grow an astounding variety. Winter squash, pumpkins, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, bok choi, kale, corn salad, arugula, carrots, beans, peas, berries, eggs, the abundance went on and on.

I was incredibly inspired by her approach toward finding varieties that thrive in her micro climate, ones that are tough and aggressive growers. She trials open-pollinated varieties and saves her own seed for many of her plantings. Freely sharing her knowledge, Tonna said she would happily work herself out of a job, she just wants folks to grow local and reap the benefits.

Farragut Farm makes the trip into Petersburg by boat to sell direct twice a month. Marja Smets and Bo Varsano had beautiful, tender and sweet produce for sale. Radishes nearly the size of golf balls, collards, kale, chard, green onions, carrots, garlic scapes, edible flowers, pea shoots, peas, Napa cabbage, turnips, beets, and lettuce. Wow, to have root crops and full-sized heads of Romaine lettuce and cabbage this early on is a testament to dedicated growing. I had heard that Farragut sells to charter boats and indeed I can place an order via email to be picked up one hour on either side of the high tide in Farragut Bay. They will row and deliver to the boat.

If you love fresh flowers, Craig Olson and Deb Hurley of the Flower Farm run a flower CSA.  For a $100 subscription they deliver six bouquets a summer.  Stunning dahlia, snapdragon, campanula, linaria, veronica, delphinum, and ageratum to name a few.  They grow in three hoophouses and three heated greenhouses that were funded with a $20,000 grant from the Petersburg Development Fund. Planting starts on Jan. 9, and 60 percent of their sales are in veggie and flower bedding plants.

Inga’s Galley (click here for Facebook page) is the Petersburg reinvention of Sitka’s late-but-beloved Two Chicks on a Kabob Stick food cart. Amyee Peeler (one of the Two Chicks from Sitka) sources local produce whenever she can, and of course all of the seafood is local.

Unfortunately, the The Market In Petersburg was not happening on the Friday while I was in town, but I hope to hit it on July 19.

I’ll keep looking over the next two months wherever we dock, I am heartened to see folks committed to growing and sourcing the best food in Southeast. If you know of anyone that I’ve missed leave me a note at sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com (put “Attention Cathy” in the subject line).

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• Alaska Division of Agriculture to host four On-Farm Food Safety Workshops in Southeast communities

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The Alaska Division of Agriculture is planning a series of four On-Farm Food Safety Workshops in Southeast Alaska communities the week of July 21-25. The workshops will be in Skagway, Haines, Juneau and Sitka.

These workshops are geared toward farmers both large and small, farmers market vendors, gardeners, and anyone who is interested in learning more about food safety in the production of fruits and vegetables.

The Sitka workshop will be from 6-9 p.m. on Thursday, July 25, in the upstairs classroom of the See House at the St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church (on Lincoln Street, the brown church with the steeple above Crescent Harbor). This is a voluntary educational event for farmers and gardeners who want to learn more about agricultural practices that help reduce the risk of food-borne illness, especially if they plan to sell or donate produce to the Sitka Farmers Market or other programs. For more information about the Sitka workshop, contact Lisa Sadleir-Hart at 747-5985.

The workshops are free, informal, and run for about three hours. The workshops consist of two powerpoint presentations – one on food safety, and introduction to both USDA GAP/GHP food safety audits and the FDA’s new Food Safety Modernization Act, and a second presentation that assists growers who are interested in marketing their produce to schools and local institutions.

The workshops include a site visit to a local farm or garden where we will conduct a mock food-safety audit and answer growers’ questions. We will also provide a wealth of food safety reference materials, and an introduction to online tools that can assist growers in creating a food safety plan, which is the first step in providing food safety assurance to their buyers.  All attendees will receive a copy of FamilyFarmed.org’s “Wholesale Success” reference manual, and a certificate for 3 hours of continuing education in farm food safety.

To learn about the Skagway, Haines and Juneau workshops, check out the flier posted above.

• Alaskans Own™ community supported fisheries program announces season subscription packages for Sitka, Juneau and Anchorage

AO_LogoSitka-based Alaskans Own seafood recently announced its subscription prices for its 2013 Community Supported Fisheries (CSF) program in Sitka and Juneau, and this year the program will start delivery to Anchorage.

Alaskans Own was the first CSF program in the state, modeling its program after the successful Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs that let customers deal directly with harvesters so they can buy subscription shares to the year’s crop/catch.

IMG_2716 (Custom)This is the fourth year of the Alaskans Own CSF program, and this year there are four-month and six-month subscriptions. The six-month subscriptions  allow people to keep receiving freshly caught seafood through October instead of August, when the traditional four-month subscriptions end. Half-subscriptions also are available. Subscriptions include a mix of locally caught black cod (sablefish), halibut, king salmon, coho salmon, lingcod and miscellaneous rockfish, depending on the commercial fishing season. This year there also will be a bonus box of tanner crab from the partner Alaska Marine Conservation Council program in Kodiak.

The Alaskans Own expansion into Anchorage recently was featured on the Alaska Dispatch website. The Alaskans Own program is associated with the Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust. The Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust’s mission is to strengthen Alaskan fishing communities and marine resources through scientific research, education, and economic opportunity.

Here is Alaskans Own CSF program information provided in a recent e-mail sent to the program’s past subscribers and other interested folk:

Subscription shares are offered again as both a full or half share, 4 month or 6 month option. Subscriptions include a mix of black cod, halibut, king and coho salmon, lingcod and rockfish. Our approximately 1-lb. portions are flash-frozen and vacuum packed—enjoy now or keep frozen for your winter home pack. Pick-ups will take place once per month at the Mill Building/Sitka Sound Science Center in Sitka, at Reliable Transfer near the Nugget Mall in Juneau, and a location TBA in Anchorage.
  
Find all the details about our 4-month and 6-month subscriptions below.
2013 PRICES AND SPECIES MIX*
4-Month Summer Subscriptions (May, June, July, August)
 4-MONTH FULL SHARE: $535 total for 40 pounds of seafood:
Lingcod                  10 lbs.          (May)
Halibut                   4 lbs.          (May)
Black cod               2 lbs.           (June)
Misc. rockfish          8 lbs.          (June)
King salmon             6 lbs.          (July)
Coho salmon           10 lbs.         (August)
4-MONTH HALF SHARE: $290 for 20 pounds of seafood:
Lingcod                  5 lbs.          (May)
Halibut                   2 lbs.          (May)
Black cod               1 lbs.          (June)
Misc. rockfish          4 lbs.          (June)
King salmon             3 lbs.          (July)
Coho salmon            5 lbs.         (August)
 
6-Month Summer-Fall Subscriptions (May, June, July, August, September, October)
6-MONTH FULL SHARE: $795 for 60 pounds of seafood:
Lingcod                 15 lbs.          (8 lbs. May + 4 lbs. September)
Halibut                   6 lbs.          (4 lbs. May + 2 lbs. October)
Black cod               3 lbs.          (2 lbs. June + 1 lb. September)
Misc. rockfish         12 lbs.         (10 lbs. June + 5 lbs. September)
King salmon             9 lbs.          (6 lbs. July + 3 lbs. October)
Coho salmon          15 lbs.          (10 lbs. August + 5 lbs. October)
6-MONTH HALF SHARE: $415 for 30 pounds of seafood:
Lingcod                  8 lbs.          (4 lbs. May + 2 lbs. September)
Halibut                   3 lbs.          (2 lbs. May + 1 lbs. October)
Black cod                2 lbs.          (1 lb. June + 1 lb. September)
Misc. rockfish           6 lbs.         (5 lbs. June + 3 lbs. September)
King salmon             4 lbs.          (3 lbs. July + 1 lb. October)
Coho salmon            7 lbs.          (5 lbs. August + 2 lbs. October)
*The species mix outlined above is subject to change, as we are basing costs on estimated dock prices, which fluctuate throughout the season. For example, if in July king prices are higher than expected, we’ll provide a little less of that species and increase the pounds of coho you receive. Bottom line: we will ensure you get the best mix of seafood for the subscription price. Due to increased costs to shipping, labor, and other logistics, we have had to increase our subscriptions costs minimally this year.
How do you sign up for the 2013 season? Just reply to this email with your name, address, phone number and the subscription package you’d like. We’ll put you on the list and send a confirmation email along with instructions for payment. This year we will offer two different payment options: either send in a check to Alaskans Own or use PayPal on our new Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust website. Please do not pay for a share until you receive confirmation for your subscription.
Our first pick will be in late May, date to be announced. However, we expect our subscription slots to fill up soon–so, please don’t delay in getting your name on the list.
We appreciate your continued support of Alaskans Own.
For more information about subscribing, contact Alaskans Own at info@alaskansown.com. For information about the Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust, call 907-747-3477 or send e-mail to info@thealaskatrust.org.

• Alaskans Own™ community supported fisheries program announces season subscriptions for Sitka and Juneau

Sitka-based Alaskans Own seafood recently announced its subscription prices for its 2012 Community Supported Fisheries (CSF) program in Sitka and Juneau. Alaskans Own was the first CSF program in the state, modeling its program after the successful Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs that let customers deal directly with harvesters so they can buy subscription shares to the year’s crop/catch.

This is the third year of the Alaskans Own CSF program, and this year there are four-month and six-month subscriptions. The six-month subscriptions are new this year, and they will allow people to keep receiving freshly caught seafood through October instead of August. Half-subscriptions also are available. Subscriptions include a mix of locally caught black cod (sablefish), halibut, king salmon, coho salmon, lingcod and miscellaneous rockfish, depending on the commercial fishing season.

In Sitka, pick-ups take place on the fourth Wednesday of the month (May through August for four-month subscriptions, May through October for six-month subscriptions) at the Mill Building at the Sitka Sound Science Center. A pick-up location for Juneau will be announced at a later date. Registration for 2012 subscriptions opened on April 13, and the first pick-up is scheduled for Wednesday, May 23. Subscriptions are limited, so sign up early. For those who miss out on subscriptions, Alaskans Own frequently has a booth at the Sitka Farmers Markets.

The four-month summer subscription price (May through August) is $430 plus tax for 40 pounds of seafood total, while the half-subscription price is $230 plus tax for 20 pounds. The four-month share will have two pounds of blackcod and 10 pounds of miscellaneous rockfish in May, eight pounds of lingcod and four pounds of halibut in June, six pounds of king salmon in July and 10 pounds of coho salmon in August. The half-subscription has half shares of each fish species.

The six-month summer subscription price (May through October) is $635 plus tax for 60 pounds of seafood, while the half-subscription price is $335 plus tax for 30 pounds of seafood. The six-month share will be the same as the four-month share for May through August, with September adding one pound of blackcod, five pounds of miscellaneous rockfish and four pounds of lingcod, and October including two pounds of halibut, three pounds of king salmon and five pounds of coho salmon. The half-subscription matches the four-month half-subscription through August, then adds one pound of black cod, three pounds of miscellaneous rockfish and two pounds of lingcod in September, and one pound of halibut, one pound of king salmon and two pounds of coho salmon in October.

The mix outlined is subject to change, as Alaskans Own bases its costs on estimated dock prices that can fluctuate throughout the season. For example, if July king salmon prices are higher than expected, you’ll receive a little bit less of that species and get additional pounds of coho salmon. The bottom line is you get the best mix of seafood possible for the subscription price.

For more information, go to the CSF page on the Alaskans Own website, or call 738-3360 in Sitka. You can contact Alaskans Own by e-mail in Sitka at info@alaskansown.com or in Juneau at alaskansown@gmail.com.

• Recent paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) serve as reminder to not eat certain types of locally harvested shellfish

The butter clam has one set of rings that go one direction only, around the same center point (Photo courtesy of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation)

The butter clam has one set of rings that go one direction only, around the same center point (Photo courtesy of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation)

This past week, there were four suspected cases of paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) reported in Juneau. These four cases, combined with a couple of PSP cases in the Ketchikan/Metlakatla areas this winter and record-high levels of the PSP toxin found in shellfish last summer should serve as reminders that the state discourages eating recreationally and subsistence-harvested shellfish on most beaches in Alaska.

The first three PSP cases reported to the Alaska Section on Epidemiology last week involved clams harvested over the Easter weekend near Juneau — the first case reported April 10 involved razor clams from Admiralty Island and the next two cases reported April 12 involved butter clams from either Lincoln Island or Ralston Island. On April 13, another case was reported where a person ate pink neck clams (also known as surf clams) harvested from Shelter Island.

The littleneck clam has two sets of rings that cross each other at 90 degree angles (Photo courtesy of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation)

The littleneck clam has two sets of rings that cross each other at 90 degree angles (Photo courtesy of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation)

In each case, the people who ate the clams experienced classic PSP toxin symptoms — tingling and numbness of the mouth and tongue that eventually can extend into the extremities and then the rest of the body. Once the toxin moves into the body, it can paralyze the heart and lungs, causing them to stop and leading to intensive care treatment and possibly death (PSP deaths were reported in Juneau and Haines in 2010). If people experience these symptoms, they should get to the hospital immediately because sometimes a hospital respirator can save a life.

PSP can cause severe health problems and even death, and there is no antidote. The toxin is not visible, and requires special testing to be detected. It can occur during any month of the year, and the toxin can remain in affected shellfish for as long as two years. There is no antidote to the toxin. PSP generally affects bivalves that filter food when they eat, such as clams, cockles, mussels, oysters or scallops. Crab meat does not carry the PSP toxin, but crab guts can have the toxin since crab eat bivalves.

A cockle has deep ridges similar to a Ruffles potato chip (Photo courtesy of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation)

A cockle has deep ridges similar to a Ruffles potato chip (Photo courtesy of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation)

Southeast Alaska beaches, like most beaches in the state frequented by recreational and subsistence harvesters, are not tested by the state for the PSP toxin. The state does check commercially harvested shellfish for the toxin, but in recent months at least one commercial geoduck season was closed because of the toxin’s presence.

To learn more about PSP, here is an informational page created by the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) after last year’s extremely high levels of PSP toxin were discovered. This page features information about how PSP is formed, what types of shellfish can carry the PSP toxin, basic first aid for PSP symptoms and more.

• Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning Fact Sheet from the State of Alaska