OLYMPIA - With many Puget Sound clam populations on the upswing, clam diggers will be able to take advantage of new harvest opportunities opening up at several popular beaches beginning April 1.
Emergency rules issued this week by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) authorize additional digging at six beaches from Potlatch to Port Townsend as a result of improvements in the department's latest population assessments.
Alex Bradbury, WDFW shellfish biologist, said the emergency rules are a "stopgap" measure to open or continue clam digging at those beaches until new, permanent regulations adopted by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission for the 2004-05 season take effect May 1.
"These emergency rules are just one indication of the new clam-digging opportunities people will see in the months ahead," Bradbury said. "Compared to last year, seasons will be longer at more than a dozen beaches this year."
The emergency rules approved today extend clam digging on the following beaches:
- All three clamming beaches near Potlatch in Mason County will open to clam digging April 1 and remain open through June 15. Those beaches include Potlatch State Park, Potlatch East and Potlatch DNR tidelands.
- South Indian Island County Park in Jefferson County will open April 1 and remain open through June 30. In addition, the adjacent beach at Port Townsend Ship Canal/Portage Canal, originally scheduled to close for digging April 30, will remain open through May 31.
- Brown Point (DNR 57-B), previously scheduled to close to clam digging April 15, will remain open through June 30.
- WDFW extended the recreational clamming season at Fort Flagler State Park by two weeks, but delayed the opening date from April 1 until April 15 to extend the digging season through "Free Fishing Weekend" on June 12-13. The season at Fort Flagler will run from April 15 through June 15.
These and other season extensions approved this year were based on surveys conducted last summer that found substantial increases in littleneck clam populations on many Puget Sound beaches, Bradbury said.
Another factor is that, unlike last year, clam-digging opportunities will not be constrained by the need to compensate for exceeding the sport harvest quotas at several beaches the year before.
"That debt to the resource is settled now, and we're back on track," Bradbury said. "Clam diggers can look forward to a great season ahead."