Bad News for Oregon Coast Razor Clamming: Likely Not Open in Summer
Published 06/16/2015 at 5:12 PM PDT
(Oregon Coast) – Still more bad news for those hoping to get even a small amount of razor clamming done on the Oregon coast before the regular closure on the north coast every July. ODFW has announced clamming will remain closed due to high domoic acid levels in razor clams, and it will not reopen in time, before the annual conservation closure on Clatsop beaches begins on July 15.
Still, crabbing is not affected, however.
Scientists say levels of the toxin are unusually high – in fact, they are the highest since 1998.
Razor clamming along the entire length of the Oregon coast shut down on May 14 when the high concentrations of domoic acid were discovered. The north coast's Clatsop beaches – from Seaside up to Warrenton – contain about 90 percent of the entire harvest of Oregon razor clams. These beaches are closed to razor clamming from July to about October every year, a conservation method to allow newly-set young clams to establish themselves. Now, the current ban looks as if it will overtake the yearly shut down on the north.
Even worse, there is a possibility the ban could go beyond the summer, when clamming normally reopens.
Matt Hunter, ODFW shellfish biologist in Astoria, said he is confident clamming won’t reopen before July 15, but he is also hesitant to predict a re-opening of the clamming season when the conservation closure ends September 30.
“We still haven’t seen domoic acids levels peak,” he said. “As long are they are still going up it’s hard to predict when they might start coming down.”
Domoic acid, a natural toxin produced by certain types of marine algae called phytoplankton, can be harmful or even fatal if consumed in sufficient quantities. Cooking or freezing does not destroy domoic acid in shellfish.
Shellfish samples are collected every low tide series for biotoxin analysis. It takes two consecutive samples under the alert level before a harvesting area can be reopened, Hunter said.
The high levels of domoic acid that are affecting razor clams are not influencing the Oregon crab season, which remains open. Washington State’s recent closure of its southern coast to all sport and commercial crabbing has prompted concerns that Oregon might follow suit.
But according to Hunter, recent tests of crabs off the Oregon coast showed domoic acid levels were undetectable in most samples.
“It could be that the crabs off the Washington coast are eating something different, or that the Columbia River is forming some sort of north/south barrier,” Hunter said.
Washington coastal towns are complaining of a loss of millions of dollars due to those closures.
Bay clamming in areas south of Tillamook Head also remains open and safe, Hunter added.
For current shellfish closure information, call the Oregon Department of Agriculture Shellfish Hotline at 800-448-2474. For more information about clamming and crabbing, visit the ODFW shellfish page at http://www.dfw.state.or.us/MRP/shellfish/index.asp.
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