OLYMPIA - Clam diggers have a green light to proceed with a three-day razor clam dig starting on Veterans Day at four ocean beaches.
Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks beaches will all be open to razor clam digging between noon and midnight Nov. 11-13, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has announced.
The department approved the dig - the second of the fall season - after a series of marine toxin tests showed that the clams on those four beaches are safe to eat, said Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager.
That is not, however, the case at Kalaloch Beach, where a toxin-producing bloom of pseudo-nitzschia algae washed ashore last July. Jointly managed by WDFW and Olympic National Park, Kalaloch Beach will remain closed to digging as long as domoic acid levels continue to exceed state and federal health standards, Ayres said.
"The good news is that we are now past the period in early fall when those big toxic blooms are most likely to hit our beaches," Ayres said. "Once toxin levels at Kalaloch subside, we could be in the clear for the rest of the season."
Dr. Barbara Hickey, a professor of oceanography at the University of Washington, shares that view. As a member of a scientific team monitoring toxic algae off the coast, Hickey believes any threat posed by a large bloom spotted off the Strait of Juan de Fuca in September has now passed.
"It either dissipated or went somewhere else," Hickey said. "At this point, I think it is highly unlikely that we'll have any further problems with toxic blooms this season."
Specific areas that will be open for digging Nov. 11-13 include:
Long Beach, from North Head to Leadbetter Point on the Long Beach Peninsula.
Twin Harbors, from the South Jetty at the mouth of Grays Harbor south to the mouth of Willapa Bay.
Copalis Beach, from Ocean Shores to the Copalis River.
Mocrocks Beach, from the Copalis to the Moclips River.
No digging will be allowed on any beach before noon. Under WDFW rules, harvesters may take no more than 15 razor clams and must keep the first 15 taken, regardless of size or condition. Each digger's limit must be kept in a separate container.
For best results, Ayres recommends that clam enthusiasts start digging at least one hour before low tide.
Low tides during the upcoming three-day opening are:
Nov. 11: 5:33 p.m., -0.6 ft.
Nov. 12: 6:18 p.m., -1.2 ft.
Nov. 13: 7:04 p.m., -1.5 ft.
WDFW has also tentatively scheduled a third dig Dec. 10-12, pending the results of a new series of marine toxin tests.
Low tides for those dates are:
Dec. 10: 5:12 p.m., -0.7 ft.
Dec. 11: 6:01 p.m., -1.2 ft.
Dec. 12: 6:49 p.m., -1.5 ft.
Ayres reminds those planning to dig razor clams during the upcoming opening that a license is required for anyone age 15 or older. Any 2004 annual shellfish/seaweed license purchased since April 1 is still valid.
One new option is a "razor clam only" license now available in both annual and three-day versions. Descriptions of the various licensing options are available on the WDFW Web site at fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov
Ayres strongly recommends anyone needing to purchase a license, do so before leaving home to avoid long lines that often form at coastal license dealers during a dig.
However, to help ease the pressure on coastal dealers, WDFW will sell licenses at the Willapa Bay Field Station, 26700 Sandridge Rd., Ocean Park, on the Long Beach Peninsula. The Field Station, also known as the "Nahcotta Lab," will sell licenses Nov. 11 (10 a.m. to 6 p.m.), Nov. 12 (11 a.m. to 7 p.m.) and Nov. 13 (10 a.m. to 6 p.m.).