Clam diggers enjoyed best season in 20 years

Staff writerJune 9, 2013 

The recently completed razor clam season was the best in more than 20 years, based on a preliminary assessment.

From October 2012 through May, diggers harvested more than 5 million clams on Washington’s coastal beaches, said Dan Ayres, coastal shellfish manager for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

This is a major increase from the 2011-12 season, which produced a total of 2.5 million clams harvested, the lowest harvest in the last 12 years. A typical season results in a harvest of 3.2 million razor clams.

“We’ve not yet totally wrapped up our 2012-13 razor clam season harvest estimates, but I can say the last season had the highest overall catch and digging effort for any single season since 1983,” Ayres said.

Heading into the season, Ayres and his staff estimated razor clam populations were up on all beaches, except for Kalaloch. In the case of Twin Harbors and Mocrocks, shellfish biologists found the largest populations they had recorded in more than 17 years.

Also boosting harvest numbers was a change in determining the total allowable catch for Twin Harbors and Long Beach.

“We made the decision to begin using a modified strategy to set the (total allowable catch) that allows us to increase the harvest rate when populations are stronger, adding even more harvest opportunities,” Ayres said.

Where beaches had strong populations, the allowable catch was raised to a maximum of 40 percent of clams available for harvest, rather than the 30 percent used previously.

The one blemish on the season was the season-long digging closure of Kalaloch beaches. State and National Park Service managers are concerned with small clam populations there. Olympic National Park has jurisdiction for the Kalaloch beaches. Plnas for a dig in April never materialized because population numbers never rebounded enough.

In the coming months, department staffers will conduct a coast-wide assessment of razor clam stocks and develop recommendations for the 2013-14 season. The new season is expected to get underway sometime in October.

“The good news is that populations continue to look very good and the season ahead should be a good one too,” Ayres said.

Jeffrey P. Mayor: 253-597-8640 jeff.mayor@ thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/adventure

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