Tests showing unsafe levels of marine toxins have forced the state to delay the opening of razor clam digging at Long Beach and may impact digging at three other beach areas.
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife late Wednesday announced that tests of clams at Long Beach this week showed levels of domoic acid were 29 parts per million, exceeding the state’s safety threshold of 20 ppm. At Twin Harbors, levels were at 11 ppm, they were 3 ppm at Copalis and 6 ppm at Mocrocks.
Domoic acid, a natural toxin produced by certain types of marine algae, can be harmful or fatal to humans and animals if consumed in sufficient quantities.
The department had set Oct. 14 as the opening day of the 2016-17 season.
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Domoic acid levels this high are a major concern, said Dan Ayres, coastal shellfish manager for the agency.
“These latest toxin test results cast uncertainty on the fall razor clam season,” Ayres said. “We hope this is a short-term spike in toxin levels that won’t lead to closures at other beaches.”
This was the first time clams at Long Beach have tested above the safe level in 18 tests done this year. The previous high was 19 ppm Jan. 13, but levels had dropped to 3 ppm Sept. 6.
Testing at Twin Harbors showed unsafe levels from January to late June. But since July, levels have fluctuated from 5-14 ppm. After twice testing above unsafe levels in January, domoic acid levels at Mocrocks have been in the safe zone. Copalis clams have been in the best shape, never testing higher than 13 ppm in early January.
This would be the second season in a row where high domoic acid levels have forced the delay of the season opener, which typically takes place in October. Copalis did not open until December last year, while Long Beach opened in early January and Mocrocks didn’t open until February. Twin Harbors never opened last season.
The state was forced to shut the 2014-15 season early because of toxin levels being too high.
The state agency and Olympic National Park have yet to decide whether to open Kalaloch area beaches to digging this season.
Jeffrey P. Mayor: 253-597-8640
To track the latest levels of domoic acid, go to wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclams/domoic_levels.html.