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Razor Clamming Abruptly Back Open on N. Oregon Coast - Excellent Numbers, Sizes

Published 10/05/23 at 8:32 a.m.
y Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Razor Clamming Abruptly Back Open on N. Oregon Coast - Excellent Numbers, Sizes

(Seaside, Oregon) – Things were looking a little spooky this season for those who loved razor clamming on the north Oregon coast, but in comes a rather sudden reprieve for clam fans. Clatsop Beach reopened Wednesday to recreational razor clamming, after biotoxins tested below the threshold for safety and two state agencies gave the all-clear. (Photo Oregon Coast Beach Connection)

Not only is it open but they are plentiful, say Oregon coast officials.

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The area between Seaside and the Columbia River always closes from July 15 to September 30 as part of the annual conservation. Instead of opening as planned on October 1, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) and Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) kept it closed because of unsafe levels of domoic acid found last month. The biotoxin can cause much harm to humans if ingested from the meat of razor clams.

Then, more testing was not possible for a time because of heavy seas endangering biologists. However, testing this weekend came up clear, said ODFW.

Over 90 percent of Oregon's razor clam population lives here on the beaches of Seaside, Gearhart and Warrenton.

Yet there's even further good news: the clams are larger in numbers than usual, according to ODFW biologist Matt Hunter. He said he'd found a sizable juvenile recruitment (which means when razor clams establish themselves on beaches), measuring 1.4 clams per square meter.

Average for Clatsop Beach is .75 clams per square meter over 20 years, with the highest year in 2021 when 2.59 juveniles per square meter were discovered. Hunter said the conservation closure allows ODFW biologists to research the clam population there more thoroughly.

Photo courtesy Seaside Aquarium

“The majority of this year’s clams are juvenile and between three and four inches so clam digging should be above average or better this fall,” ODFW said in a release.

The grand total of juvenile and mature clams is well above average, ODFW said, at around 1.85 clams per square meter. The average for combined older and younger clams is 1.32, the agency said.

The larger numbers appear to be because of favorable winds pushing clam larvae onto this part of the Oregon coast during spring and summer, and not into the Washington coast as it did last year in 2022.

Hunter said this bodes well for the coming spring.

“Once the juvenile clams begin to grow in the spring, digging in the spring of 2024 could be much more successful,” he said. “Regardless, harvesters will need to focus on digging only the largest shows (larger than a nickel) to ensure a better chance of harvesting a larger clam.”

There are usually razor clam spawning events in the fall as well as spring or summer, but on occasion fall is the only such event for new juveniles.

Recent years have not been good for clam closures on the Oregon coast due to biotoxins. In 2021 and 2022, biotoxin levels kept the conservation closure from opening back up for months. This year is pleasantly anomalous in that regard.

Always check the status of shellfishing on the ODA page before you head out.

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Photos courtesy Seaside Aquarium

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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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