Fans of razor clams have been patiently waiting for the southern coast of Washington to open for clam digging. The season has been closed all year on certain beaches due to high levels of the naturally occurring neurotoxin domoic acid.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife approved a five-day razor clam dig, starting Wednesday, on the Long Beach Peninsula. Test results on marine toxins came in Sunday showing shellfish on Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis Beach, and Mocrocks Beach are safe to eat. Beaches along the Oregon coast remain closed for razor clam digging.
“The community was hurting and I was so happy yesterday to call and give them the good news,” said Dan Ayres, the department’s coastal shellfish manager. “It really is a cultural experience. And when people can’t do it, they miss that.”
Ayres expects up to 10,000 diggers to visit Long Beach this weekend, and more than 30,000 people along the Washington coast. After months of toxin-related delays, the opening could give a big economic boost to coastal businesses.
“It’s a fishery that really can impact these small communities,” Ayres said. “If you were doing this in Portland or Seattle, nobody would even notice. But that many people in a little town of a couple thousand people, it’s a big deal.”
The closures are nothing new. Last year, Twin Harbors was closed for the entire season. And in 2002, high toxin levels prompted a coast-wide closure on all beaches.
In order for beaches to open, razor clams must test below 20 parts per million of domoic acid. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife says it’s required to have two sets of samples a week apart, from a variety of places on the beach.
High levels of domoic acid can affect the central nervous system and cause short-term memory loss, stroke-like symptoms, or even death.
The razor clam season was scheduled to begin back in October and usually lasts until late May. Scientists will continue to monitor the open beaches and will announce digging dates on a weekly basis.
The upcoming dig is approved on the following beaches, dates and morning low tides:
• Wednesday, April 12, 2017, 8:08 a.m. PST, 0.0 feet; Twin Harbors, Long Beach
• Thursday, April 13, 2017, 8:43 a.m. PST, 0.0 feet; Twin Harbors, Copalis, Long Beach
• Friday, April 14, 2017, 9:18 a.m. PST, 0.1 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks, Long Beach
• Saturday, April 15, 2017, 9:55 a.m. PST, 0.3 feet; Twin Harbors, Copalis, Long Beach
• Sunday, April 16, 2017, 10:36 a.m. PST, 0.5 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks, Long Beach