Published: January 2019
Author(s): Zach Forster
Fishery Objectives and Preseason Planning
In anticipation of a commercial razor clam season in 2018, which was primarily due to low levels of domoic acid in razor clams collected on recreational beaches adjacent to the Willapa Spits, a public meeting was held in January at the Raymond High School. Major discussion topics covered during the meeting were the season opening date and duration, recent domoic acid closures and gear regulation changes.
This was the first public meeting in two years, recall in 2015 the season start date was changed from May 1 to April 1 and the season abruptly ended due to a domoic acid closure resulting in the recall of clams and a loss of over half of the season. Harvesters and clam buyers were excited that there may be some opportunity for harvest in 2018 but at the same time expressed concern about losing another season to a domoic acid closure. The April 1 season start date was revisited, poor weather conditions remained the greatest concern, after consideration the decision was made to continue with an April 1 opener. Department staff also sought recommendations for structuring season delays, extensions and possibly a fall season. The consensus was that WDFW should consider any and all options that would allow access to clams especially in light of the recent closures. Staff also presented proposed commercial gear rule changes at the meeting to make legal commercial gear defined under WAC 220-340-100 consistent with legal recreational razor clam gear by removing pick, mattock and fork and allowing the use of a clam gun or tube with a minimum diameter.
Fishery managers began conducting biotoxin sampling on the Willapa spits earlier than in previous years. Pre-season test results continued to show a decrease in domoic acid levels from February to the end of March. On March 23, 2018 WDFW announced the fishery would open on April 1, 2018 and run just over 8 weeks, ending on June 4, 2018. A season extension was announced on May 22, 2018 with a new ending date of July 18, 2018. Regulations for the commercial razor clam fishery allow digging only on “detached” (i.e. islands) spits. At the time of the extension, shifting sand 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. In the past when this has happened boundary poles have been installed at the north end of Leadbetter Point to provide a clear delineation between it and the spits. Again, boundary post were installed in 2018 to eliminate any uncertainty.