Commercial razor clam fishery

Commercial harvest of razor clams is an old, but small fishery in Washington. Each year, the fishery opens during the spring for eight weeks. Typically, 50 to 100 diggers participate in this open-access fishery. The season is slated to start on April 1 of each year once biotoxin levels have been deemed safe by the Washington Department of Health (DOH). For up-to-date season information, call the Commercial Razor Clam Hotline at 360-249-4628, ext. 278.

Commercial harvest is allowed only on the detached Willapa Spits, located at the mouth of Willapa Bay. The spits are accessible only by boat. Familiarity with the area is vital -- the mouth of Willapa Bay is very treacherous.

In order to participate, all diggers need to obtain a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Commercial Razor Clam license and a Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) right of entry (ROE) authorization. The license fee is $285 for Washington state residents and $670 for non-residents. DNR charges a $100 application and use fee to harvesters.

Diggers must also either register with a Department of Health certified razor clam dealer or become certified by Department of Health individually.

Hotline and biotoxin reports

Commercial razor clam hotline

Monday, March 25, 2019

Recent biotoxin tests performed by the Washington Department of Health indicate that razor clams collected from the detached spits of Willapa Bay remain below the regulatory closure level.

At this time the season is scheduled to open Monday, April 1.  The season will close on Monday, June 24 at that time we will evaluate the fishery and consider options including a season extension.  

We understand this is short notice, however given issues with biotoxins in recent years it was necessary to avoid the potential loss of license dollars to diggers/buyers.

The WDFW licensing staff as well as the Department of Natural Resources licensing staff is aware of this short window and will be prepared to process an increase of licenses the last week of March.  

The webpage and hotline will be updated with the latest biotoxin results as biotoxin sampling continues on the detached spits in Willapa Bay.

If you have any questions, please call: 
Zach Forster, Coastal Shellfish Biologist, 
Willapa Bay Field Station, (360) 665-4166

2019 commercial razor clam fishery biotoxin results

Collection date Sample type Area PSP Meat (µg/100g) DSP Meat (µg/100g) Domoic Result (ppm)
3/4/2019 Pre-season Leadbetter     6
3/20/2019 Pre-season Leadbetter     5

Dealer certification and licensing requirements

To purchase clams, individuals or companies must obtain the following items:

  1. Department of Health Shellfish License, and Certification and Inspection of your operation. Contact Jerry Borchert at 360-236-3328 for an Application and Plan of Operation Questionnaire.
  2. WDFW Fish Dealer and Buyer Endorsement License: If you plan to buy clams and do not have a Fish Dealer's License, contact WDFW Licensing, 360-902-2464 for appropriate application forms. The fee for a fish dealer and buyer endorsement is $855.

Licensing requirements for individual diggers

In order for an individual harvester to participate in the fishery, you will need items both items below if you are selling to a DOH-certified company.

  • WDFW Commercial Razor Clam License: Each person applying for a commercial razor clam license must complete and sign an application. The fees are $285 for Washington state residents or $670 for non-residents. See the section below on mandatory digger registration for additional information on the licensing process.
  • The Washington Department of Natural Resources Right-of-Entry (ROE) authorization: All commercial uses on state-owned aquatic lands require authorization for the use of state-owned aquatic lands and the harvest of public resources. DNR charges a $100 application and use fee to harvesters. Payment can be made by check only, not cash or debit/credit cards. Commercial razor clam harvesters must get a right-of-entry permit in person. You can visit the DNR offices in Olympia at:
    Natural Resources Building
    DNR Aquatics Division
    1111 Washington St. SE
    3rd floor
    Olympia, WA

Diggers must carry their commercial license on their person while harvesting and while in possession of clams. Unlicensed persons are not permitted to assist with harvesting operations. Diggers should remember that a license is required to "take, dig for or possess" razor clams. Unlicensed digging is not only unfair; it is inconsistent with the policy that fisheries be conducted in an orderly manner. The minimum age for licensing in the commercial razor clam fishery is 16 years.

Mandatory digger registration

All diggers are required to register with a certified razor clam dealer to participate in the fishery. To register, diggers should directly contact a dealer certified by the Department of Health and arrange to be included on the dealer's list of registered diggers. For a current list of certified dealers, contact the Department of Health at 360-236-3330 or the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) 360-902-2464.

Once a dealer(s) has agreed to register you with their company, they will submit your name to Licensing at WDFW. There is no fee to register. WDFW Licensing will only sell commercial razor clam licenses to those individuals whose names appear on the WDFW list of registered diggers. If you apply by mail, your license will not be issued until your name has been received. If you plan to purchase a license in person, first call WDFW Licensing at 360-902-2464 to confirm that WDFW has your name registered. All commercial diggers must obtain certification tags from the buyer(s) they are registered with prior to harvesting any clams.

DOH shellfish certification tags

All containers of razor clams must be tagged at the time of harvest regardless of registration status. Diggers will have to make sure they obtain certification tags from the company they plan on delivering to before they dig their catch. Untagged buckets of clams are subject to seizure. For questions regarding razor clam certification contact Jerry Borchert – Washington Department of Health at Jerry.borchert@doh.wa.gov or call 360-236-3328.

Plan of operations – digger list

Companies may add diggers to their Plan of Operation during the season but WDFW will not issue licenses until an updated list is provided by the DOH. Diggers may change companies during season but must follow the same steps described above. The list of diggers for each company will be provided to WDFW Enforcement. Citations can be issued for violations of either WDFW or DOH regulations.

Fish tickets and 'take home'

Wholesale dealers must complete a fish ticket for all commercially harvested razor clams (WAC 220-352-180 or WAC 220-352-190) whether clams are sold, kept by the digger for crab bait, or intended for personal use (WAC 220-340-040). Personal use is limited to one recreational limit (15 clams) per day per digger and must be recorded in the "Take Home" section of the fish receiving ticket (WAC 220-340-040).

Transport tickets

If you intend to sell clams at some location other than the point of landing a "transport ticket" must be filled out and kept with the clams until the point of sale. Transport tickets are available through Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Licensing in Olympia; a limited supply is available at the Region 6 office at Montesano.

Razor clam fishery annual reports

Summary reports of the commercial fishery for razor clams.