Marine toxins delay razor clam digs this fall

OLYMPIA – Elevated levels of marine toxins have prompted state shellfish managers to postpone the start of razor clam digging on ocean beaches this fall.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will not schedule razor clam digs on any of the state’s ocean beaches until tests show the clams are safe to eat.

Domoic acid levels on Washington beaches have dropped significantly since last spring, when the department was forced to curtail digging early, said Dan Ayres, coastal shellfish manager for WDFW. However, concentrations of domoic acid are still above the threshold (20 parts per million) set by state public health officials.

“If levels continue to decline, we could potentially open some beaches in mid or possibly late November,” Ayres said.

WDFW will continue to work with the Washington Department of Health to monitor regularly marine toxin levels in razor clams, Ayres said. Test results are posted on WDFW’s webpage at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclams/domoic_levels.html.

“We know diggers are anxious to get out onto the beaches, but public health is our primary concern,” Ayres said.

Domoic acid, a natural toxin produced by certain types of algae, can be harmful or even fatal if consumed in sufficient quantities. Cooking or freezing does not destroy domoic acid in shellfish.

Since 1991, when the toxin was first detected on the Pacific coast, outbreaks of domoic acid have prompted the cancellation of three entire razor clam seasons in Washington – the last one in 2002-03.

Any new information about razor clam digging will be posted on WDFW’s razor clam webpage at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclams/current.html.

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