OLYMPIA - Clam diggers today got the green light to precede with a three-day razor clam dig on all but one of Washington's ocean beaches later this week - the first time those beaches will open for razor clam digging in more than a year.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) approved the razor clam dig after a series of marine toxin tests confirmed the clams at Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, and Kalaloch are safe to eat.
Those four beaches will open for digging on evening tides Sept. 26-28 (Friday through Sunday). Clam digging will be allowed on open beaches between noon and midnight each day during the three-day opening.
The Olympic National Park scheduled the dig at Kalaloch Beach, which is located within park boundaries, to coincide with those at the other beaches.
Mocrocks Beach will remain closed to digging, because marine toxin levels in sample clams analyzed by the Washington Department of Health exceed those deemed safe for human consumption, said Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager. Mocrocks Beach extends from the Copalis River to the southern boundary of the Quinault Reservation near the Moclips River, and includes Iron Springs, Roosevelt Beach, Pacific Beach and Moclips.
In preparation for this week's opening at the state's four other coastal beaches, Ayres strongly recommends that prospective diggers who do not already have a 2003-04 recreational shellfish license purchase one before they reach the coast. Licenses can be purchased on-line through WDFW's website or from one of 600 authorized license dealers throughout the state.
"People have been waiting for this opening for a long time, so things could get hectic at the beach," Ayres said. "It would be a shame to waste time waiting in line to buy a license when you could be digging razor clams."
This week's opening marks the first time since May of 2002 that people will be allowed to harvest razor clams on Washington's beaches. WDFW suspended clam digging at all ocean beaches last season when routine testing revealed that coastal clams contained high levels of domoic acid, a marine toxin potentially fatal to humans.
That is no longer the case for the four beaches scheduled to open this week, said Ayres, noting that samples dug at those beaches and analyzed by the Washington Department of Health meet state and federal safety standards.
The best time to start digging for razor clams is an hour or two before low tide, said Ayres, who recommends taking a lantern for evening digs. Low evening tides during the three-day opening are:
- Friday, Sept. 26: 7:35 p.m., - 0.3
- Saturday, Sept. 27: 8:20 p.m., -0.8
- Sunday, Sept. 28: 9:07 p.m., -1.0
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 access road on Copalis Beach; on the county line approach to Twin Harbors Beach; and 2.8 miles north of the Oysterville access road on Long Beach.
The four beaches that will open to razor-clam digging Sept. 26 include:
- Long Beach, from North Head to Leadbetter Point on the Long Beach Peninsula.
- Twin Harbors, from the South Jetty at the mouth of Grays Harbor south to the mouth of Willapa Bay.
- Copalis Beach, which extends from the Grays Harbor North Jetty to the Copalis River and includes the Ocean Shores, Oyhut, Ocean City and Copalis areas.
- Kalaloch Beach, from the south beach campground to Brown's Point (just south of Beach Trail 3) in the Olympic National Park. Visitors to the park are advised to consult area bulletin boards for park safety and other information.
In recent weeks, WDFW has been holding public meetings throughout western Washington to solicit ideas about how to structure the 2003-04 razor clam season. Provided that domoic acid levels remain low enough to allow digging, WDFW will release plans for a series of openings beginning in October.
"This week's opening falls outside our scheduling procedure," Ayres said. "But the tides will be favorable for digging and we'd like to give people a chance to get some clams before October, when a new outbreak of domoic acid is historically most likely to occur. Especially after this past year, we don't want to let any opportunities for a dig go by."