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Seeing Mysterious Work in N. Oregon Coast Waters? It's Biologists in Tillamook Bay

Published 05/19/22 at 3:15 AM PST
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Seeing Mysterious Work in N. Oregon Coast Waters? It's Biologists in Tillamook Bay

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(Tillamook, Oregon) – Soon you will start to see a group of people in one north Oregon coast bay wading in the water, hanging around in boats, and carefully going over the sand flats. Tilllamook Bay will be the subject of some mysterious activity. (Photo ODFW: researchers using megacoring pumps)

You can put away your tinfoil hat. It's only science at work, as researchers from Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) will be conducting surveys on bay clams and those that live in the estuaries. Biologists will be toiling here through October. It all creates something useful for average clammer.

This group of biologists are from ODFW's SEACOR (Shellfish and Estuarine Assessment of Coastal Oregon) program. The organization does periodic surveys of bay clam populations on all of the Oregon coast's major bays, and this year the focus is on Tillamook Bay.

Surveys like this are conducted to look into the various recreational species of clams (butter, cockle, gaper, and littleneck clams), researching locations, numbers and their preferred habitats. Other types of shellfish are examined in the surveys as well, including juvenile Dungeness crabs and purple varnish clams.

Photo Oregon Coast Beach Connection

The data is then used to create detailed maps of where clamming is the most productive, a highly useful tool for recreational clammers on the Oregon coast. These maps inform the public on abundance of the recreationally-targeted species as well, so clammers can maximize efficiency on the tide flats.

Surveys also document changes to species and their habitats, adding to a growing database of information on the health of Oregon’s bay clams and estuaries.

Residents and visitors will see the SEACOR biologists particularly busy at low tides. ODFW said they will be following GPS coordinates to specific spots on the tide flats, and they will be laying out quadrats, recording information on the habitats of each species and identifying the presence of gaper or butter clams by their siphon shows on the tide flat surface. Biologists will also rake the mud or sand down to about six inches looking for cockle or littleneck clams.

A few sites will require surveying in greater detail by hand digging or using “megacoring” equipment – which pumps out sediment and simultaneously collects clams that are deeper down. SEACOR biologists megacore sites in shallow areas of the bay and work with contracted divers to conduct megacoring surveys in the subtidal zone.

Bay clammers can get detailed maps for Alsea, Coos, Netarts, Siletz, Tillamook and Yaquina bays on or check the SEACOR page for more information on the project.

ODFW also uses SEACOR survey information to manage the commercial bay clam fisheries in Tillamook Bay. The Tillamook Bay Clam Advisory Committee is currently working with ODFW to develop recommendations for management of the recreational and commercial bay clam fisheries.

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Photo ODFW: crews taking sand samples


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