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Biotoxin Closes All Razor Clamming on Oregon Coast

Published 09/30/22 at 6:24 PM
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Biotoxin Closes All Razor Clamming on Oregon Coast

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(Oregon Coast) – The entire Oregon coast is closed to razor clamming due to high levels of the marine biotoxin domoic acid, a disappointment to many as the upper third of the coastline was just closed off to the activity as well. (Photo Oregon Coast Beach Connection)

Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) handed down the order Friday, closing off razor clam harvesting from the Washington coast border down through the south Oregon coast at Brookings. Lab results show the biotoxin has exceeded the safety levels for human consumption and thus the closure limit.

Mussel harvesting remains closed from the Columbia River down through the north part of Yachats, leaving the entire south Oregon coast still open for that activity. Mussels have been hit with paralytic shellfish toxin. Both are caused by a certain kind of diatom.

The annual conservation closure was just about to end up on the north Oregon coast, where the beaches from Seaside into the northern edges of Warrenton are closed every July through October 1 so that new clams can grow properly. However, testing in that area also showed high levels of the biotoxin.

Judy Dowell with ODA told Oregon Coast Beach Connection they were beginning to see signs a harmful algae bloom – or HAB – would occur.

“ODFW was checking often for an algae called pseudo-nitzschia, which creates the biotoxin,” she said. “They've seen a big uptick lately in that algae. It's going on up all of the coast. Washington is having similar issues.”

How did so many of these unwelcome diatoms bloom?

Dowell said it has to do with water temperatures and upwelling, which brings more nutrients for them to feed on. Conditions became right for them, and in turn prime for pseudo-nitzschia to cause the biotoxin.

Situations like this don't bode well for the future. There were similar situations in 2015 and 2020, which resulted in extended clamming closures, over a year in the last case.

Recreational bay clam and crab harvesting remain open along the entire Oregon coast.

Testing by Oregon coast officials is conducted twice a month as tides and weather allow. Biotoxins have to be at safer levels for two tests in a row in order to reopen an area.

In late 2020, just before the conservation closure ended on the north Oregon coast, the area was hit hard by extremely high levels of biotoxins, 10 times the amount of the 2015 closure.

The Washington coast just opened up some clamming days, including today being the last one until at least the middle of October. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) recently announced the next possible clam dates would be October 8 – 14 and 24th - 30th.

For more information call ODA's shellfish biotoxin safety hotline at (800) 448-2474, the Food Safety Division at (503) 986-4720, or visit the ODA Shellfish Biotoxin Closures webpage.

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