UPDATE ON MAY 7
The state this afternoon issued a warning that anyone who took part in the razor clam dig Thursday on coastal beaches from Long Beach north to Kalaloch should destroy all clams they harvested due to high levels of domoic acid.
The state Department of Health issued an advisory Friday afternoon after discovering elevated levels of domoic acid, which can cause illness if there are high levels. As a result, recreational and commercial razor clam digs scheduled for this weekend have been canceled by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, according to a press release.
As a precaution, all razor clams commercially harvested are being recalled and the department is advising any sport diggers to destroy them.
A sudden rise in domoic acid levels earlier this week forced the state to cancel three days of a four-day razor clam dig on all ocean beaches this week.
The opening continued as planned Thursday on Long Beach and Twin Harbors beaches after state health officials cleared that day’s dig.
Levels of domoic acid have been on the rise since late Monday and could exceed state health guidelines by this weekend. As a precaution, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife canceled digging Friday (May 8) through Sunday, said Dan Ayres, coastal shellfish manager.
The highest level detected so far is 15 parts per million, Ayres said. The state’s action level is 20 ppm.
Domoic acid is a natural toxin produced by certain types of marine algae, and it can be harmful or even fatal to humans if consumed in sufficient quantities.
“Warm ocean water temperatures have created ideal conditions for the algae that produce domoic acid,” Ayres said in a news release.
Earlier in the week, the agency had approved the four-day dig after tests over the weekend showed clams on Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Mocrocks beaches were safe to eat. Since then, however, routine testing detected elevated toxin levels, prompting a second round of testing on razor clams by the state Department of Health.
Those tests, evaluated Wednesday, show domoic acid levels in razor clams are rising and could surpass state health guidelines by the weekend.
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. Kalaloch Beach, jointly managed by the department and Olympic National Park, also was closed for much of the 2004 season due to high toxin levels. In 2005, the state agency closed Long Beach for two days due to elevated toxin levels.
More information about domoic acid can be found on the department’s webpage.