Dosewallips open for shellfish

A portion of the tidelands at Dosewallips State Park on Hood Canal has reopened to recreational shellfish harvesting for the first time in more than 20 years.

The newly opened 70 acres of tidelands was closed to shellfish harvesting in 1987 because of high levels of bacterial contamination from the large number of seals in the area.

However, the population has been reduced by seal-eating orca whales that visited the canal in 2003 and 2005 and a loss of seal habitat in the Dosewallips River delta from flooding, said Greg Combs, a recreational shellfish specialist with the state Department of Health.

In addition, repairs of on-site septic systems serving homes north of the park have helped improve water quality, Combs said.

The state park tidelands are well known for their abundant populations of oysters and clams.

“It’s difficult not to get a limit at Dosewallips,” Combs said.

The daily limit on oysters is 18. The oysters must be shucked on the beach and the shells left where they were found. The limit for most clams is 40 and can’t exceed 10 pounds. A shellfish license purchased from the state Department of Fish and Wildlife is required to harvest shellfish.

“These additional acres offer recreational shellfish harvesters increased opportunity on an excellent oyster and clam beach on Hood Canal,” said Camille Speck, a biologist at the state Fish and Wildlife’s Point Whitney Shellfish Laboratory near the park.

The reopened area is marked with orange plastic stakes. The area around the mouth of the Dosewallips River remains off limits to harvesting because of bacterial contamination that occasionally flows down the river. Delays in completion of a new wastewater treatment system at the park are also a concern around the mouth of the river.

Fish and Wildlife and the Skokomish Tribe will survey the clam and oyster populations on the reopened area this summer to develop tribal and nontribal harvest plans for 2011.

John Dodge: 360-754-5444