Recreational shellfish harvest to open on part of west Drayton Harbor

There will be a recreational shellfish harvest season on a section of western Drayton Harbor for the first time since 1999.

The season for molluscan shellfish — clams, mussels and oysters — will open April 1 and run through Oct. 31 in an area off the shores of Semiahmoo Park.

The harvest area is best accessed from public parking at Semiahmoo Park, 9261Semiahmoo Parkway.

It’s being reopened because water quality has improved in that portion of the harbor, where commercial shellfish harvests have been allowed on a seasonal basis in recent years, and there are enough shellfish.

“The site can support a sustained harvest and still maintain a healthy population,” said Tom Kunesh, environmental health supervisor for the Whatcom County Health Department.

Harvesters should look for signs that will direct them where to go, as well as boundary markers.

Clams will be the primary shellfish to be harvested in the area.

The opening of a season was good news of sorts, according to Kunesh.

It’s an indication of “better water quality and the efforts of the Drayton Harbor Shellfish Protection District and the public,” he said, “but it’s also sort of a reminder that there’s still more we can do.”

“This opening is only a small portion of the bay,” Kunesh added, “and that’s because water quality elsewhere in the bay hasn’t met standard.”

After Oct. 31, the recreational season will close Nov. 1 to Jan. 31 because water quality during those months doesn’t meet standards.

The issue for Drayton Harbor is fecal coliform bacteria washing into the waterway.

Dates for a 2016 recreational harvest season haven’t been decided yet.

Public health officials also could close the harvest if the biotoxins that cause paralytic shellfish poisoning or diarrhetic shellfish poisoning are detected above safe levels during routine testing.

People should check biotoxin closure status before harvesting by going online to https://fortress.wa.gov/doh/eh/maps/biotoxin/biotoxin.html or by calling 1-800-562-5632.

To learn more about harvest area boundaries and to check licensing requirements and seasons before harvesting, go to wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/beaches/.