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Razor clam dig reduced to one day this week

May 6, 2015

OLYMPIA - Three days of a four-day razor clam dig have been canceled on all ocean beaches because of public health concerns, state shellfish managers said today.

The opening will continue as planned Thursday on Long Beach and Twin Harbors beaches after state health officials cleared that day's dig.

Levels of domoic acid, detected through routine testing, have been on the rise since late Monday and could exceed state health guidelines by this weekend. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is canceling the dig May 8-10 as a precaution, said Dan Ayres, coastal shellfish manager with WDFW.

Domoic acid, a natural toxin produced by certain types of marine algae, can be harmful or even fatal if consumed in sufficient quantities. More information about domoic acid can be found on WDFW's webpage at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclams/domoic_acid.html .

"Warm ocean water temperatures have created ideal conditions for the algae that produce domoic acid," Ayres said.

Earlier this week, the department had approved the four-day dig after marine toxin tests over the weekend showed clams on Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Mocrocks beaches were safe to eat. Since that time, routine testing detected elevated toxin levels, prompting a second round of testing on razor clams by the Washington Department of Health (WDOH).

Those tests, evaluated today, 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 WDFW and Olympic National Park, also was closed for much of the 2004 season due to high toxin levels. In 2005, WDFW closed Long Beach for two days due to elevated toxin levels.

WDFW and WDOH will continue to monitor toxin levels to determine whether two proposed digs tentatively scheduled later in May will go forward.


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