OLYMPIA – For people who want to harvest clams, crabs and other intertidal shellfish, getting up-to-date information on Puget Sound beaches now is just a few clicks away.
A new feature of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife's (WDFW) website allows users to click on any of 420 beaches from Blaine to Olympia and call up the latest information on state regulations, health warnings and fishing tips.
Don't have a specific beach in mind?
That's not a problem, since the map-based, Shellfish Beaches and Regulations website allows users to "shop around" for a beach that meets their criteria.
"This is definitely a step forward in our effort to provide better service to the public," said WDFW Director Jeff Koenings. "The intertidal shellfish site is an example of our commitment to serve the public through better information."
Randy Butler, the WDFW computer specialist who designed the new site, said his main goal was to help address the thousands of questions he and his colleagues at the WDFW Brinnon Shellfish Laboratory receive every year about specific beaches and harvest regulations.
While the agency provides that information through various means, only the new website provides all that information in one place, Butler said. For example:
- The WDFW rule pamphlet, Fishing in Washington, lists harvest regulations for beaches closed part of the year, but does not provide information on those open year round. It also doesn't list emergency closures announced after the pamphlet is printed.
- The agency's Shellfish Hotline at (360) 796-3215 provides a recorded announcement of emergency closures, although people often know beaches by different names.
- WDFW, in conjunction with several other agencies and the Tulalip Tribes, publishes a more complete shellfish guide, although it does not contain information about annual regulations.
"My goal was to bring all this information together in one place in a way that just hasn't been possible without the Internet," Butler said. "And, of course, people can still consult the rule pamphlet or call the hotline if they can't find what they need."
Right now, the website covers only intertidal shellfish fisheries – those conducted shoreward of the low-tide mark – and extends west only as far as Dungeness Spit. However, Butler said he hopes to expand the site to cover the Strait of Juan de Fuca by summer's end and would eventually like to include open-water fisheries as well.
"Right now, I'm just eager to see how the public responds to our first site of this kind," Butler said.