Clam digging season approaching for Washington state

Story by Mark Yuasa
The Seattle Times
September 23, 2011
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SEATTLE — The fall and winter coastal razor clam seasons are coming up and diggers should find another decent harvest even though the number of yummy bivalves won’t be as abundant.

“What we’re seeing is a decrease in populations on most beaches,” said Dan Ayres, head state Fish and Wildlife coastal shellfish biologist. “The overall picture says it will not be a gangbuster season, but not bad either.”

Copalis Beach saw the most significant drop, and it didn’t come as a surprise since in previous years there wasn’t a good amount of small recruitment-size clams.

“The conundrum is that Copalis is down, and it’s just a stone’s throw away from Mocrocks where clams are up a bit,” Ayres said. “They usually tend to follow in each other’s footsteps, but this time they didn’t.

“On all the other beaches we’re seeing a strong recruitment, and things will be fine in the future.”

Both Twin Harbors and Long Beach are down on overall populations, but the recruitment-size population of clams looks good.

On the northern coast, Kalaloch clam numbers are down, but “not a big disaster,” said Ayres.

Ayres said there have been no issues with domoic acid and paralytic shellfish poisoning — marine toxins that are produced by algae or plankton blooms during higher ocean temperatures or environmental changes.

During the 2010-11 season, 444,000 clam digger trips generated 3.2-million razor clams on the five coastal beaches, for an average of 13.1 (13.4 last year) clams per person. The first 15 clams dug regardless of size or condition is the daily limit.

“Clam wastage (small clams dug up and left to die on beaches) last season was a little higher than most years on some beaches,” Ayres said. “Twin Harbors was our biggest issue. Our (enforcement) worked hard on it in spring and handed out citations, so hopefully we got our message across.”

State Fish and Wildlife will have a presentation on its website for the public to view at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclams/.

Specific digging dates won’t be announced until late September or early October. Looking at the low tides, the first digs will happen around the end of October.

(c)2011 The Seattle Times

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Distributed by MCT Information Services

Mark Yuasa

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