GALVESTON — The Texas Department of State Health Services announced the “precautionary closure” of oystering in Galveston Bay because of high levels of toxin-producing algae in the water.

According to a media release from the department, commercial and recreational harvesters should not harvest oyster, clams or mussels until further notice.

The closure went into effect Wednesday evening.

The department said regular testing revealed an elevated levels of Dinophysis algae in the water. The algae produces a toxin, okaiac acid, that can enter the tissue of shellfish. Eating an affected shellfish can cause vomiting, diarrhea, nausea and cramping. The toxin is not life-threatening.

Department spokesman Chris Van Deusen said Wednesday that no human illnesses had been reported before the decision to close the bay was made. It’s uncertain how long the ban will last. Van Deusen said that in the past, similar closures had remained in place for weeks.

“Until the levels of the algae drop in that water, nobody should take shellfish from Galveston Bay,” Van Deusen said. He added that shellfish harvested before Thursday and other types of seafood, like crabs and finfish, are safe to eat.

Dinophysis algae blooms have been detected in Galveston Bay before. In 2010, the algae caused a monthlong closure that began in late April.

The closure will likely have an effect on the commercial fishing industry. The commercial oyster season ends April 30.

Contact reporter John Wayne Ferguson at 409-683-5226 or john.ferguson@galvnews.com.

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