10/24/2016 – John W. J. Snyder – WFS
OLYMPIA – Elevated marine toxin levels have prompted the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to cancel a razor clam dig scheduled to start Friday at Twin Harbors.
State shellfish managers already scratched a dig at Long Beach – that was also scheduled to start Friday – due to elevated levels of domoic acid, a natural toxin produced by certain types of marine algae. The toxin can be harmful or even fatal if consumed in sufficient quantities.
“We’re disappointed to have to cancel this week’s opening but we can’t take chances when public health is at stake,” said Dan Ayres, coastal shellfish manager for WDFW.
Domoic acid levels started to increase along Washington’s southern coast, at Long Beach, just before the first opening this fall. Recent testing indicates that domoic acid levels are on the rise further north, at Twin Harbors.
WDFW will continue to monitor toxin levels on all Washington beaches. The department has tentatively scheduled the next opening to start on Nov. 12 with potential digging opportunities on four ocean beaches. Final approval will depend on the results of toxin tests that will occur about a week before the dig is scheduled to begin.
State health officials require that each beach must pass two rounds of toxin testing, showing levels of domoic acid below 20 parts per million, to be considered for clam digging.
“We’re hopeful that toxin levels will drop and allow us to open ocean beaches to digging later this season,” Ayres said.
Elevated levels of domoic acid also forced state shellfish managers to cut short the razor clam season in the spring of 2015 and delay openings last fall.
More information about razor clams and domoic acid can be found on WDFW’s webpage at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/