OLYMPIA – Several ocean beaches will open for three days of razor clam digging as scheduled Thursday (April 26), but Twin Harbors – the stretch of coastline between Westport and North Cove – will remain closed to digging due to health concerns, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced today.
In addition, clam digging on Copalis Beach (from Ocean Shores to Copalis) will be delayed until Friday to prevent potential over-harvesting of clams in that area, said Dan Ayres, WDFW razor clam biologist.
All other Washington razor clam beaches – Long Beach, Mocrocks (including Iron Springs, Roosevelt, Pacific Beach, Moclips) and Kalaloch (between the South Beach Campground and Brown's Point) – will be open for three days of digging this week as previously scheduled.
Clam digging at Long Beach, Mocrocks and Kalaloch will be allowed Thursday (April 26) and Friday (April 27) during morning hours from 12:01 a.m. until noon. All beaches will be closed to digging through Saturday, then reopen (with the exception of Twin Harbors) Sunday morning (April 29) at 12:01 a.m. and remain open until 2 p.m. to give diggers a chance to take advantage of Sunday's 11:48 a.m. low tide.
"We recognize these unexpected beach closures have real impacts on coastal businesses, not to mention thousands of people planning to dig clams," Ayres said. "Unfortunately, recent tests indicate domoic acid levels in the Twin Harbors area have risen to the point where the clams cannot be certified as safe to eat."
Ayres indicated that the clam dig at Twin Harbors may be rescheduled within the next few weeks if domoic acid levels drop to within safe levels.
Domoic acid is a naturally occurring marine toxin that can be fatal if ingested above certain levels. The United States Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) has established 20 parts per million as the point at which shellfish cannot be considered safe to eat – the same level recorded by the Washington Department of Health at Twin Harbors last weekend.
Readings at other razor clam beaches were within acceptable ranges and do not present health concerns, Ayres said.
"Research has shown that domoic acid does not present a danger to human health as long as levels are below the national standard," said Ayres, noting that the last Washington beach closure due to domoic acid was Kalaloch in the spring of 1999.
For those planning to dig clams this week, Ayres strongly recommends they purchase their 2001 license – shellfish/seaweed, combination or two-day – before they head for the beach.
"The spring razor clam dig is very popular, and it usually falls around license-renewal time," Ayres said. "From past experience, we are advising diggers to have their license in hand before they leave home to avoid potential lines at outlets in coastal communities."
(License dealers throughout the state are listed on WDFW's website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/lic/vendors/vendors.htm.
Under WDFW rules, harvesters may take no more than 15 razor clams and must keep the first 15 taken, regardless of size or condition. Each digger's limit must be kept in a separate container.
Digging is prohibited in the three, one-quarter-mile-wide razor clam reserves, which are marked by 10-foot orange metal poles with signs. The reserves are located just south of the Ocean City approach on Copalis; at the county line approach on Twin Harbors Beach; and 2.8 miles north of the Oysterville approach on Long Beach.
Ayres said this week's dig will likely be the last multi-beach opener before next fall, although WDFW may open individual beaches in the weeks ahead if enough clams remain to be harvested after this week's dig.
Morning low tides on beaches open to razor clam digging this week are as follows:
- Thursday, April 26 (low water at 9:17 a.m. / -1.0 feet)
- Friday, April 27 (low water at 10:01 a.m. / -1.0 feet)
- Sunday, April 29 (low water at 11:48 a.m. / -0.4 feet)
"We generally recommend that people start digging at least an hour before low tide," Ayres said. "But there's often an hour or two of good digging after the tide turns, so we extended digging until 2 p.m. Sunday because we didn't want to cut people short."