Summary Report of the 2001 Commercial Fishery for Razor Clams (Siliqua patula)

Preseason Planning

A joint trip by DOH, DNR and WDFW staff to the Spits was made in April 2001. The purpose of the trip was to determine how much area of the spits needed to be closed during the commercial fishery to minimize, if present, impacts to nesting seabirds. In the past a portion of Gunpowder Spit was elevated enough that it remained exposed even at high tide; grasses were present and it provided potential snowy plover habitat. During the May 2001 trip it was evident that erosion and shifting had eliminated elevated areas, it appeared that at high tide most if not all of the sand was immersed. With the absence of any potential habitat, no area of the Willapa Spits was closed during the commercial razor clam season. Because of the changing nature of these spits, it is recommended that the area be surveyed annually to determine the presence and/or extent of elevated areas and the potential for seabird habitat.

Concerns regarding the quality of water at the Willapa Spits had also been expressed. High levels of fecal coliform were thought possible given the apparent increase in harbor seal populations and the presence of seal haul-outs on the spits. In response to these concerns water samples were collected and analyzed in April and May 2001. Despite the presence of many seals in the vicinity, test results indicated the water quality was good. The exchange of water with each tide in Willapa Bay is nearly 60%, which ensures that any concentration of fecal coliform around the spits would be quickly and consistently dispersed.