Those of you who have been around for a while may recognize the fallacy of the present clam season. After testing the Long Beach Peninsula beach areas for clam populations, it was very evident to biologist Dan Ayres and his crew that the population of juvenile clams was going to be tremendous (13 million juveniles and 4 million adults) on the Peninsula alone. Ayres has always done an excellent job of managing our coastal populations and seasons. My question to Ayres was, "Why did WDFW even open the season so early?"
Talking with diggers it is evident that people are digging 25 to 50 holes or more just to get a decent size limit of clams. Some diggers return the smaller ones to their holes, but most do not. It is against the law but many do not seem to care, especially "out of town folks," some of whom have traveled a long ways and do not intend to be cheated with a small limit of clams. Lot of clams that are two to three inches long can be seen floating in the wash of the surf, providing a banquet for prowling seagulls.
Merchants on the Peninsula are certainly delighted at the throngs of people drawn to the area strictly for the clam season, so yes, it will hurt their businesses if season digs are closed, but what about next year (2011 and 2012)? Will there be a season? Will the clam population be so low that there won't be a season?
While writing this article, I called Ayres and he responded to the above questions as follows:
? We have been through these seasons before with many juveniles 13 million and 4 million adults, and have taken notice of the wastage of the small clams by diggers.
? People must be aware of the fact that extra DFW enforcement officers have been assigned and will especially be on the lookout for those diggers not keeping the first 15 clams they dig. It will be a costly fine if they are caught.
? People should also be patient and aware that these clams will grow very quickly in the winter time months. If you are digging in a spot with many small clams, move 100 feet one way or the other, juvenile clams have a tendency to gather as groups.
? Our testing showed that the majority of larger clams are confined to the very north end of the Peninsula - it may get a little crowded, but that's where they are living.
The clam population of the Long Beach Peninsula is a valuable resource that must be protected for the future.
The WDFW is certainly driven to protect the economy of coastal communities but at what price? Wouldn't a comprise be beneficial for all if those diggers who do not want to keep the smaller clams just hold back for a couple of months and let the little guys grow up?
Thanks to Ayres for his quick response. Your thoughts are welcome at (email@example.com).
Ron Malast can be reached at 665-3573 or firstname.lastname@example.org.