Published: November 2010
Author(s): Bruce E. Kauffman
Fishery Objectives and Preseason Planning
A public meeting was held in late March 2010 for commercial diggers and razor clam buyers at Raymond High School. This meeting had two main objectives to discuss with the stakeholders. The first topic was when to schedule the 2010 fishery and the second was a presentation by the Washington Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) regarding future authorization of the fishery.
WDFW announced that that the fishery would be allowed a full eight week season since in previous discussions WDNR and WDFW had agreed that an Aquatic Lands Right of Entry Agreement (REA) would not be required for the 2010 season. WDNR waved the REA for 2010 with the understanding that a new REA which allowed for a fair compensation to WDNR would be adopted for the 2011 season. In addition, WDFW had determined that clam abundance (based on the population levels and harvest of the coastal recreational fishery) was good. WDFW proposed opening the season for eight weeks immediately after the recreational razor clam fishery closed (which was expected to end on May 3rd). Some fishers expressed the desire to begin fishing for a week in mid-April on tides not allocated to the coastal recreational razor clam fishery. The early fishery proponents felt that the early start would allow the fishery to harvest clams in prime condition which would demand top dollar. Razor clam buyers in attendance indicated that they would not be in favor of a split or a gap in the season since gaps in production makes marketing and maintaining those markets difficult. Also discussed was a later start in mid-May which would allow for harvest when the weather is generally better. After polling the audience the majority supported opening the season in early May as soon as the recreational season was scheduled to end.
In past seasons, prior to conducting the commercial fishery on the Willapa spits, (which are state-owned aquatic lands â€" managed by WDNR), WDFW was required to obtain an REA from WDNR. For the past two years WDNR has been investigating how to obtain fair compensation from the fishery for exclusive use of state owned lands. In order to meet this objective WDNR used the opportunity to solicit the stakeholders and to establish a razor clam workgroup to advise WDNR on the management framework for the following season in 2011. At the meeting members representing the industry and fishers were selected (from those who volunteered) to join the WDNR razor clam workgroup. The makeup of the workgroup consists of one representative from WDNR and WDFW and two representatives each from harvesters and buyers.
Three factors largely determine the start date of the commercial razor clam fishery: the end of the recreational razor clam season, biotoxin levels, and tides. By practice, the commercial fishery opens only after the end of the recreational fishery. Separating the two fisheries makes it more difficult for sport diggers to illegally dig, possess or sell commercial quantities of clams, and simplifies recovering clams in the event of a Washington Department of Health (WDOH) product recall. In addition, because the Willapa Spits are legally open to sport harvest when ever Long Beach is open, keeping the fisheries separate prevents a potential influx of sport harvesters on the spits while a commercial fishery is underway. Due to the absence of any significant biotoxin events, the last being in 2005, the commercial fishery has experienced predictable and stable season schedules.
Regulations for the commercial razor clam fishery allow digging only on â€�"detachedâ€ (i.e. islands) spits. In recent years, shifting sand has filled in a channel of water that had separated the spits from the north end of Leadbetter Point. At low tide the southernmost spit and the northern end of Leadbetter Point essentially became continuous, and could be easily crossed. For the last five seasons boundary poles have been installed at the north end of Leadbetter Point to provide a clear delineation between it and the spits. Boundary posts were installed again in 2010 to eliminate any uncertainty.