Observer staff report
LONG BEACH — Clam diggers in south Pacific County aren’t off the hook yet, but an unexpected drop in a marine toxin in razor clams improves the odds for a near-term start of the season originally set to begin Oct. 14.
Samples collected early this week found clams within the safe range at all three testing sites on the Long Beach Peninsula — a surprise since a sample from Sept. 19 found 29 parts per million of the toxin domoic acid in clams from the state clam reserve north of Surfside. Clams typically are slow to clear the toxin after absorbing it from the ocean algae they eat.
Samples gathered Sept. 26 found 19 ppm of toxin in Surfside clams, 15 ppm in clams gathered from the middle sands of the Peninsula and 16 ppm near the south end of the Peninsula. Clams are considered safe to eat at 19 ppm or less.
The drop comes as the area of warm ocean water known as the Blob has already begun to weaken, according to Cliff Mass, a meteorologist at the University of Washington. A variety of indicators, including some from the National Weather Service, finds “The sea surface is cooling and Blob is dying,” Mass said. The Blob is believed to facilitate the algal blooms that produce domoic acid, so its disappearance should be good news.
Other testing last week found clams within safe limits in the three beaches to our north — Twin Harbors between Willapa Bay and Westport, Copalis in the Ocean Shores area, and Mocrocks just south of the Quinault Indian Reservation. At Twin Harbors, the top level found at three test sites was 14 ppm on Sept. 27, up from 11 ppm on Sept. 19. A second round of testing will be required before the season will be allowed to proceed on these three beaches. This testing will likely be completed by Friday, Oct. 7.
“Regarding Long Beach, you will see below that this most recent test is just barely below the action level,” said Dan Ayers, Washington state coastal shellfish manager. “This drop from the previous test is somewhat unexpected. More testing will be required before we are able to make a decision about when to allow digging on this beach.”
The Chinook Observer is seeking clarification of when additional Long Beach Peninsula testing will occur and when an initial clam dig will be scheduled if clams remain at or below 19 ppm.
North of the Peninsula, the current tentative razor clam digs, along with evening low tides and beaches, are listed below:
Oct. 14, Friday, 5:55 p.m.; 0.2 feet; Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks
Oct. 15, Saturday, 6:42 p.m.; -0.6 feet; Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks
Oct. 16, Sunday, 7:28 p.m.; -1.1 feet; Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks
Oct. 17, Monday, 8:16 p.m.; -1.4 feet; Twin Harbors
Oct. 18, Tuesday, 9:04 p.m.; -1.4 feet; Twin Harbors
Oct. 19, Wednesday, 9:55 p.m.; -1.1 feet; Twin Harbors