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Razor clam digging closed for season on Washington Coast

SHELLFISHING — Digging will remain closed on ocean beaches for the remainder of the razor clam season because of elevated toxin levels, state shellfish managers announced today.

The closure to protect public health ends one of the best razor clam seasons in decades.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has canceled two openings that were tentatively scheduled to start May 15 and May 22 because of high levels of domoic acid.

The agency canceled three days of a four-day dig earlier this month because of elevated toxin levels.

Domoic acid, a natural toxin produced by certain types of marine algae, can be harmful or even fatal if consumed in sufficient quantities. Razor clams absorb domoic acid into their fat cells and can retain it there long after the ocean water is free of toxins, said Dan Ayres, coastal shellfish manager for WDFW.  

“Based on the most recent test results that show increased levels of domoic acid, razor clams will not be safe to eat for the remainder of this month,” Ayres said.

“We’re disappointed to close early, but it has been a remarkable season for razor clam digging in Washington,” Ayres said. “We’ve had healthy and abundant clam populations that have drawn thousands of visitors to our ocean beaches.”

Shellfish managers estimate diggers harvested 5.7 million clams since the season began last October. Diggers had more opportunities to hit the beaches than any season since 1989, Ayres said.

Annual razor clam seasons typically end in mid-to-late May, when the clams begin to spawn and are less desirable for eating, Ayres said. This razor clam season was scheduled to end after the May 22 dig.

WDFW will continue to monitor toxin levels and conduct razor clam stock assessments as usual this summer.

“We hope toxin levels will drop and razor clam digging can begin again this fall,” Ayres said.  

Since 1991, when the toxin was first detected on the Pacific coast, outbreaks of domoic acid have prompted the cancellation of three entire razor clam seasons in Washington - the last one in 2002-03. Kalaloch Beach, jointly managed by WDFW and Olympic National Park, also was closed for much of the 2004 season due to high toxin levels. In 2005, WDFW closed Long Beach for two days due to elevated toxin levels.

See more info about razor clam seasons.

Beefy bivalves await razor clam diggers

SHELLFISHING — Plenty of fat clams await diggers who turn out for the next razor clam dig, set to run Wednesday, Feb. 26, through March 3 on various Washington ocean beaches.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife announced today the dig has been approved after marine toxin tests showed the clams are safe to eat.

As in previous openings, all digs are scheduled on evening tides. No digging will be allowed on any beach before noon.

Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager, said razor clams sampled in recent days are noticeably heavier than those tested earlier in the season.

“With all the plankton in the water, the clams seem to be “fattening” up earlier than usual,” Ayres said. “Those clams will make for some tasty meals after the next opening.”

The upcoming dig is scheduled on the following dates, beaches and low tides:

  • Feb. 26, Wednesday, 4:15 p.m.; -0.4 feet; Twin Harbors
  • Feb. 27, Thursday, 5:04 p.m.; -0.7 feet; Twin Harbors, Long Beach, Mocrocks
  • Feb. 28, Friday, 5:49 p.m.; -0.8 feet; Twin Harbors, Long Beach, Mocrocks
  • March 1, Saturday, 6:32 p.m.; -0.7 feet; Twin Harbors, Long Beach, Mocrocks, Copalis
  • March 2, Sunday, 7:13 p.m.; -0.3 feet; Twin Harbors, Long Beach, Mocrocks
  • March 3, Monday, 7:53 p.m.; +0.3 feet; Twin Harbors

Ayres noted that the beaches open for the greatest number of days are those with the most clams still available for harvest.

Under state law, diggers can take 15 razor clams per day and are required to keep the first 15 they dig. Each digger's clams must be kept in a separate container.

All diggers age 15 or older must have an applicable 2013-14 fishing license to harvest razor clams on any beach. Licenses, ranging from a three-day razor clam license to an annual combination fishing license, are available on WDFW's website and from license vendors around the state.

Click  here for updates on upcoming digs. 

Shellfishers happy as a clam about season prospects

SHELLFISHING — The strongest year of razor clam digging in more than a decade is predicted this fall based on summer surveys on ocean beaches, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department reports.

Barring issues with marine toxins, clammers could enjoy some of the best harvests in 15 years.

  • During the 2012-13 season, diggers harvested 6.1 million razor clams, the highest number in 15 years. Diggers averaged 14.5 clams per day, just shy of the 15-clam legal limit.

"The test show an even higher density of razor clams on most beaches than last year, when diggers enjoyed a banner season," said Dan Ayres, coastal shellfish manager. "That will translate into more days of digging at popular beaches such as Long Beach and Twin Harbors, so long as we don't have any marine toxin issues."

State shellfish managers will present an update on coastal razor clam stocks and discuss options for structuring this year's season at a public meeting Sept. 19 in Long Beach.

The seasons could start in October. The lowest tides are the first and third weekends of the month. A season could be set for either or both.

Razor clam seasons are also an economic boon for small coastal communities, according to a study conducted by the University of Washington. Last year's season generated approximately $37 million in economic benefits, based on the model used in the study.  

Geoduck winning protection; next — state bird?

SHELLFISH — Just kidding with the headline. I know the difference between clams and waterfowl.

But for a long time, it seems, ducks have had more protection than the great goeduck of Washington's beaches.

Numbers of the largest, oldest and most bizarre-looking wild clam species in the state have been going downhill, says the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

"Geoduck poaching is particularly damaging because the species grows slowly over a long period," said WDFW director Phil Anderson.

The delicacy is the largest burrow clam species in the world and has been recorded as living as long as 146 years.

WDFW and the Department of Natural Resources announced this week in a joint statement that they will undertake new efforts aimed at "preventing poaching, evaluating environmental factors that may be contributing to the decline, seeking legislative budget support for additional field enforcement and reviewing harvest regulations."

The key may be whether they get the $500,000 they're requesting for increased enforcement.

The goeduck can grow up to two pounds by the time it is five years old.  The ones that live into their 100s can reach 10 pounds and fetch $160 per pound on the retail market.
  

Razor clam digging seasons set to start Oct. 28

SHELLFISHING — Barring any bad news from marine toxin monitoring, Washington's first razor-clam dig of the season is scheduled to begin Oct. 28 on four ocean beaches, with additional digs planned through late December. 

Read on for details and the season schedule through December.

Fewer razor clams available for fall digs

SHELLFISHING — Fewer razor clams will be available for harvest this season on the Washington Coast beaches, according to Washington Fish and Wildlife Department pre-season surveys.

The decline, said state coastal shellfish manager Dan Ayres, is due to the natural cycle of razor clam populations.

“We’ll have a little less digging this season,” Ayres said. “But we’ll probably save as much as we can for spring dates. People like that, the conditions are better and the clams are bigger.”

Information about current razor-clam stocks, marine toxins and digging options is available on the state Department of Fish and Wildlife’s shellfishing website.

Getting down and dirty for goeducks

SHELLFISHING — Seattle Times outdoor writer Mark Yuasa dove head-first into the sport of goeduck harvesting last week.

Read for insight on the technique his friends have developed for gathering the heavyweight of Pacific Northwest clams.

Why we send our daughters to college

SHELLFISHING — After four years at Western Washington University, my daughter, Hillary, finally got out with a group of West Siders and learned how to dig clams.

These are outdoor life skills you can't learn at home in Spokane.

Next, she needs to find her way onto a boat to land a big salmon.  Ideally, the boat would have an extra seat available for her dad.