LONG BEACH — An uptick in marine toxin levels has the potential of delaying the start of the main razor clam season this Friday in Pacific County, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife said Tuesday.

It’s possible the previously announced seven-day dig from Cape Disappointment to Westport will be allowed, but it will depend on the results of additional precautionary tests this week by the Washington Department of Health. A final determination is expected Friday morning for beaches from Cape D to Leadbetter in south Pacific County and the Twin Harbors area in north Pacific County and south Grays Harbor County.

“In the last few days, we’ve seen increasing levels of the algae that can cause domoic acid in ocean water at Long Beach and Twin Harbors,” said Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager.

“Our first priority is safety, and we, working alongside the Department of Health, are reserving judgment on opening of these areas in order to ensure safety for all those who enjoy this activity.”

Domoic acid toxin levels in clams remain well below the threshold level of 20 parts per million. They have gone from 2 to 5 to 8 ppm in the past couple weeks on the Peninsula.

“In addition to these relatively minor increases, we are also looking at our sampling that shows some increases in the harmful algal species (that produces domoic acid) and in domoic acid levels in the surf zone samples taken off Long Beach and Twin Harbors and similar increases that have been reported in sampling off Oregon,” Ayres Said. “In addition, a key oceanographer at the UW we work with has indicated currents and winds may be moving more harmful algae toward our coast.”

All of these factors warrant extra caution before giving diggers the go-ahead, Ayres said.

WDFW ran an unusual early three-day clam opener in September on the Long Beach Peninsula, but the digs set to start Friday would mark the start of the traditional digging season. The Chinook Observer will announce the final decision about the upcoming dates as early as possible on Friday.

If the dig is allowed, these are the dates and tides:

  • Oct. 26, Saturday, 5:59 p.m., 0.0 feet
  • Oct. 27, Sunday, 6:47 p.m., -0.8 feet
  • Oct. 28, Monday, 7:33 p.m., -1.2 feet
  • Oct. 29, Tuesday, 8:18 p.m., -1.4 feet
  • Oct. 30, Wednesday, 9:03 p.m., -1.2 feet
  • Oct. 31, Thursday, 9:50 p.m., -0.8 feet
  • Nov. 1, Friday, 10:38 p.m., -0.2 feet

Marine toxin tests showed the clams are safe to eat on Copalis and Mocrocks beaches, and digs will definitely commence there on Friday. No digging is allowed before noon for allowed digs.

“Diggers want to be sure to come prepared with good lighting devices and always keep an eye on the surf, particularly at this time of year when low tides come at dusk and after dark,” Ayres said.

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