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Razor Clamming to Reopen Oct. 1 on N. Oregon Coast, Barring Any Biotoxins

Published 09/14/22 at 4:25 PM
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Razor Clamming to Reopen Oct. 1 on N. Oregon Coast, Barring Any Biotoxins

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(Seaside, Oregon) – The Oregon coast's hottest spot for razor clamming is about to open back up. (Photo Oregon Coast Beach Connection)

Every July through September, Clatsop beaches (Seaside, Warrenton, Gearhart) are closed off to recreational razor clamming as part of the annual summer conservation closure. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) said the plan is to reopen the area at 12:01 a.m. on October 1 – depending on tests for marine biotoxins.

Closures allow newly set young clams to establish themselves on these beaches richly populated with the species. During the closure, ODFW shellfish biologists study the local clams, looking at population numbers, and the size of razor clams found within square meter sample areas. This happens all along this nearly 20 miles of Oregon coast.

Clatsop Beach has the thickest population of razor clams in the entire state, accounting for about 90 percent of the Oregon coast's numbers.

Photo courtesy Seaside Aquarium

ODFW said the majority of this year's clams have matured and are larger than 4.5 inches, but this year comes with some shortcomings.

“So clam digging should be average or better this fall,” ODFW said. “But once those are harvested or have typical winter mortality, clam digging in spring 2023 could be much less successful.”

The majority of this year’s clams are mature and greater than 4.5 inches on this stretch of north Oregon coast.

ODFW's Matt Hunter is one of their primary shellfish biologists. He said he found very low numbers of juvenile recruitment this summer. That means clams that have established themselves on the beaches are not as plentiful.

According to ODFW, only .04 juvenile clams per square meter were found, compared with the average of the last 18 years, which is .71. Last year's was a whopping 2.59 clams.

“Total razor clam (juvenile and mature) abundance is well below the 1.29 average at just .66 clams per square meter and a fraction of last year’s 3.73 clams,” ODFW said.

Why less juvenile recruitment? Hunter said he believes it's due to spring and early summer south winds pushing razor clam larvae farther north. Clam recruitment on the north and central Washington coast is stellar this year.

Most years, Oregon sees razor clam spawning events in fall, in addition to the typical spring/summer spawning. Fall spawning can be an important component and in some years is the only juvenile recruitment.

Scientists with Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) and ODFW regularly test shellfish for the biotoxins, such as those sometimes found in razor clams. If everything is clear, this part of the Oregon coast will open back up on schedule.

The 2020 through late 2021 season was a nightmare for fans of razor clamming on Seaside, Gearhart and Warrenton beaches. Domoic acid levels tested too high just after the area reopened in the fall, and stayed that way through the entire year, until the annual closure kicked in again. It finally opened up in October 2021.

Most years, Oregon sees razor clam spawning events in fall, in addition to the typical spring/summer spawning. Fall spawning can be an important component and in some years is the only juvenile recruitment.

Hunter began assessing razor clams on Clatsop beaches in 2004. Assessments are focused on these beaches where about 95 percent of the annual razor clam harvest occurs. Razor clam populations exist in patches south of Tillamook Head making assessments too difficult to conduct routinely.

Currently, there are no razor clamming closures due to biotoxins, but there is a mussel closure from Yachats to the north Oregon coast state border.

Clammers should always checked for toxin-related closures before harvesting clams or crabs by calling the shellfish safety hotline 1-800-448-2472 or visit ODA’s Recreation Shellfish page. Closures are also noted on ODFW’s Recreation Report – Clamming and Crabbing Report.

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

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