OLYMPIA - Kalaloch Beach on the Olympic Peninsula will not open for razor clam digging this month as planned due to a high marine toxin count in a recent test sample, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced today.
Two other coastal beaches - Long Beach and Twin Harbors - passed the first test for domoic acid, but final approval of a proposed dig Feb. 19-21 at those beaches will hinge on a second toxin test scheduled next week, said Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager.
"We wanted to get the word out about Kalaloch right away, so people can make other plans," Ayres said. "Prospects for the other two beaches are good, but we never know for sure until the last round of test results are in."
Domoic acid is a marine toxin that can build up in the tissue razor clams to levels potentially fatal to humans. While no one in Washington state has ever died from domoic acid poisoning, the Washington Department of Health (DOH) has established strict protocols for razor clam openings to protect consumers against serious illness or death.
Under DOH protocols, no state beach can be opened for razor clam digging unless domoic acid levels are below 20 parts per million (ppm) in two separate sets of samples taken 7 to 10 days apart.
In the first test, conducted earlier this week, the highest toxin level detected at Long Beach was 4 ppm, while Twin Harbors had one reading of 15 ppm - both within the range considered safe for human consumption. But Kalaloch Beach, which is jointly managed by WDFW and the National Park Service, had one reading of 28 ppm, excluding it from a February opening.
The second and final test will be conducted at Long Beach and Twin Harbors on Feb. 15, with results due back from DOH by Feb. 17, Ayres said. WDFW will then announce whether one or both of those beaches will be open for digging on the department's website (http://wdfw.wa.gov), on the department's Shellfish Hotline (1-866-880-5431) and through statewide media, Ayres said.
For more information on domoic acid and razor clams on the WDFW website.
Provided results from the next round of testing are favorable, WDFW will open Long Beach and Twin Harbors for razor clam digging Feb. 19-21 on evening tides, Ayres said. No digging would be allowed at either beach before noon.
Besides Kalaloch, two other ocean beaches - Copalis and Mocrocks - will not be open for razor clam digging in February, Ayres said, explaining that the season's non-tribal catch allocation has already been reached at those two beaches during previous digs.
After harvest data from the February dig has been reviewed, WDFW then hopes to announce another multi-day opening in April, Ayres said.
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. Diggers must have a valid 2003-04 license to participate.