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Environment

Razor clam count shows surging population, but digging season could be derailed by COVID-19

It looks like it could be a wonderful year for razor clam digging. The state’s annual summer survey is done and Coastal Shellfish Manager Dan Ayres says their count of clams at Long Beach came in at 24 million.

<--break->That’s nearly double the number last year — which was already a 25-year record. He says the numbers are way up coastwide.  It seems to be a combination of factors coming together in the nearshore environment.

“Lots of food is available for razor clams. Water temperatures have been just exactly right. And there haven't been storms at the wrong time that would wipe out, you know, razor clam larvea and sweep them off to Timbuktu," Ayres said.  "And we're just seeing  spectacular setting of juvenile razor clams and good survival of adult clams. It's just it's a perfect storm, in a good sense, all the way around.” 

However, he says it remains to be seen whether Washington’s 58 miles of razor clam habitat will open to diggers. The state Department of Fish and Wildlife is in conversation with communities along the coast to gauge comfort levels in light of the COVID-19 pandemic with the kind of tourism clam digging can generate.  Typically, thousands of people flock to the beaches each year in pursuit of razor clams.

Marine toxins from certain kinds of algae also could keep the beaches closed. Ayres says he expects a decision to be made in the next couple of weeks. Information about the coming season will be posted on the shellfish pages of the Fish and Wildlife website