SEATTLE -- China has suspended imports of shellfish from the West Coast of the United States, cutting off one of the biggest export markets for Northwest companies.

KUOW reportsthe Chinese government decided to impose the ban after recent shipments of geoduck clams from Northwest waters were found with high levels of arsenic and a toxin that causes paralytic shellfish poisoning.

The restriction took effect last week and China's government says it will continue indefinitely.

It applies to clams, oysters and all other two-shelled bivalves harvested from the waters of Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Northern California.

The U.S. exported $68 million worth of geoduck clams in 2012 -- most of which came from Puget Sound. Nearly 90 percent of those geoduck exports went to China.

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