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Thread: Clamming EO-shut down

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    Default Clamming EO-shut down

    http://www.adn.com/article/20150224/...utdown-beaches


    First the kings, now the clams......

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    Good move ADFG. Not many clams right now.

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    Should have been done a few years ago, just like the Kings. Still plenty of big ones across the Inlet, so I blame over harvesting. Certain ethnic groups seem to think bag limits don't apply to them.
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    This was really a no brainer imo and should have happened five years ago. From my understanding it takes about 6 or 7 years before clams reach a good size with higher reproductive potential. We might be looking at a 7 year closure and at some point we need to look at either a drawing to harvest clams or a yearly limit with more enforcement at popular access points. At some point they will have to address the west side there are boats that go over and load up about 9 coolers of clams before heading back. Ive been at homer dock and watched as an ethnic group unloaded buckets and buckets and gunny sacks upon gunny sacks of the smaller butter and littleneck clams. No doubt razors got the same treatment in certain areas, not sustainable with a growing alaskan population.

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    More restraint is definitely the way to go.

    WA's razor clam beaches are managed VERY conservatively.... arguably the best-managed all-wild self-sustaining fishery in the state.

    Limits are small... first 15 clams dug, regardless of size.... small enough portions that most folks just eat them fresh and simply return for more on another day. This discourages the mass-pillaging of the beaches by the 'dig-as-many-as-you-can-in-one-sitting-N-stockpile-em-for-the-freezer' crowd. An annual stock assessment is performed, and exploitation rates have been managed on the order of 25-30% annually. Seasons typically run from October thru May.... a few days with each series of big tides, sometimes more, sometimes less, sometimes NONE depending on the available surplus for the year on any given stretch of beach. Digging is heavily marketed (esp to even casual diggers) for maximum participation and license sales. It's about the experience as much as it is about the meat. Each opener brings out the masses to the coast... a welcome boon to rural coastal businesses. Digging is suspended in the late spring during peak spawn and does not re-open till the fall.

    This strategy allows steady recruitment of adult clams into the larger/older age classes (HMMM... where have we heard that before?) where folks have reasonable expectations of limits with each outing.... and the potential for extremely high quality bags (5.5 - 6.0 inch shells) for picky experienced diggers.



    The cleaned yield from a 2-man limit fills my pasta colander to overflowing with thick meaty clam steaks. These were from last Saturday....

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    The economic impact of this fishery is also significant,
    especially during the quiet fall, winter and early spring months
    along the coast...the diggers that descend on these communities
    during monthly razor clam openings bring with them as much as
    $22 million - during an average season. For more information
    see:
    Dyson, K. and D.D. Huppert. 2010. Regional economic impacts of razor clam beach closures due to harmful algalblooms (HABS) on the Pacific coast of Washington. Harmful Algae 9: 264-271.
    "Let every angler who loves to fish think what it would mean to him to find the fish were gone." Zane Grey
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    Guess I'll join the throngs, and return to the West Side for my annual pillaging. I like to put enough in the freezer that I can enjoy a hearty meal of fried razors once or twice a month. Been eating razors all my life. Never had even one clam go to waste. Last several years digging over here was a struggle to even get a limit, and then they were horribly small. Last time I went, I didn't even come close to a limit, and I have been digging over 50 years. It isn't like I don't know what I'm doing. Last couple of years I bought clams from our local clammery. Not real fond of the way they butcher them, but at least I have some in the freezer.
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    Premium Member kasilofchrisn's Avatar
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    I'm not a clam eater but I do like to go occasionally to harvest some for my mother in law who isn't able to go.
    Once a year was enough clams for her and my wife, stepson and I had fun digging them even if they were harder to find.
    I like the idea of smaller limits if/when they do open it back up.
    I think there are several issues affecting our clams and over harvest is a big one. When I say that I mean that we have all been overharvesting from these beaches even though we were within our legal limits. ADF&G should have reduced the limits sooner as it is obvious looking back we took to many for too long.
    I think many locals cut back on harvest because we felt we needed to but many others especially tourists didn't realize or didn't care and tried to take as many as they legally could.
    Too many people rely on ADF&G to tell them to stop instead of regulating themselves when it was obvious something was wrong.
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  9. #9

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    I would support limits similar to yours, Doc. And that's not the "commie" in me - never made a dime off clams, but I've eaten them all my life. My grandma used to always make clam spaghetti. Thought that was... interesting, as a kid. I think they are hard to beat canned, and that would not be feasible at only 15 a day (takes many times that to fill a canner). But, I have watched the population and size on the East Side dwindle - slowly from increased harvest, and suddenly due to several storm-related mass die-offs. ADFG also lists poor spawning/settling success as a major factor. They need a break. I went digging over Christmas with my family and we barely covered the bottom of our bucket. And we know what we're doing.

    Plus, they really are best fresh. And fried!

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    Quote Originally Posted by smithtb View Post
    ...... barely covered the bottom of our bucket. And we know what we're doing.

    Plus, they really are best fresh. And fried!
    This is my experience also. Back in the day (80's and 90's) my brothers and I had some 6 gallon buckets we used because the clams were so large you couldn't fit a limit of the big ones in a 5 gallon bucket. Even with a 6 gallon bucket it could be a challenge to get the last few in there. These past many years, a limit of the scrawny ones available now might fill a bucket a 3rd full.
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  11. #11

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    Question?
    How much clam 'refugia' is there on the east side?
    In other words, how extensive are the clam beds?
    What percentage of the clam beds are exposed to diggers during minus tide events?
    What percent of the the beds extend into deeper water that is never exposed?

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    Good questions Extreme. From what I understand, most of the adult razor clams live just offshore where they are not susceptible to harvest. These offshore adults produce the juveniles which are washed up higher onto the beach. It's those clams that settle into the sand higher on the beach that get harvested. So, theoretically, if the offshore stock is maintained, you can have a razor clam harvest indefinitely.

    However, if the offshore spawning stock is reduced (e.g., from disease or scouring), there won't be enough juveniles to sustain a harvest. That may have happened on the KP. So the root cause of the decline may have been the loss of the spawning stock, which didn't allow sufficient juveniles in the nearshore areas to support a harvest. My sense is that ADF&G does not actively monitor the KP clam populations, but perhaps they do.

    In Washington State, WDFW monitors the offshore stock (and the nearshore population) to determine whether a clam harvest is possible. Monitoring is for both quantity, and quality. They count the clams; and they run toxicology tests to ensure they don't have PSP or high levels of domoic acid.

    Lately, the razor clam abundance on the Washington Coast has been off the charts, in a good way. Lots of really big clams, as FishDoc indicated in his post. I've taken my two boys and their teenage friends to the coast several times this year. We get a 15-clam limit for everyone, usually very quickly. And last time out, we picked up 15-20 Dungeness crabs which were hidden just under the sand. Clams and crabs go together very well on the Washington Coast. Unfortunately all were females so we could not keep any. A gentle release, and back into the sand they went......

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    Over harvest may not be the issue and probably is not. I know this sounds weird but I studied shipworms for three years in New Jersey so I became familiar with clam life histories. For razor clams they produce millions of eggs but most do not survive to the settling stage. The fertilized eggs are free swimming and spentd5-16 weeks in the water column depending on temperature. This free swimming stage does not look like a clam at all. The shell forms just before settling onto the substrate.

    So if you think about UCI it is hard to imagine with the currents that in the free swimming stage that they could maintain position in close proximity to the spawning area. It may be that the eastside population is being colonized from a population some distance from the area. If they are from offshore populations they must be one heck of a swimmer to ride the tides and stay in one place.

    Next, settling is not a given. In the case of shipworms there is a very narrow window for settling and if it does not happen the clam perishes. I am not sure about razor clams but I suspect there is a similar life history bottleneck. So settling can be very sporadic as to where the clam is located at the time of settling.

    Finally, the juvenile clams are just under the surface in the sand and very susceptible to storms which turns the sand over and over. We have that in UCI in the fall and spring so it is not unlikely that in some years the settling population is destroyed or greatly reduced. Oregon has this happen on their beaches with very sporadic settling and survival.

    So how does one manage a population with this density independent life history. Well, if you get a good set and they make it to harvest-able size you can harvest them quickly and the biomass harvested could be greater than letting some die over time (especially if you are in a high energy coast) vs growth rate. Or one can harvest a percentage each year based on size and probable recruitment frequency (betting on the come so to speak), and one could do detailed monitoring of the settling success and pick a harvest option that suits the user group desire.

    So what is happening on the eastside beach could be due to a variety of factors independent of spawning stock size and that means over-harvest is not the primary cause as harvest is limited to just the inter-tidal areas.

    Hope this helps the discussion

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nerka View Post
    Over harvest may not be the issue and probably is not. I know this sounds weird but I studied shipworms for three years in New Jersey so I became familiar with clam life histories. For razor clams they produce millions of eggs but most do not survive to the settling stage. The fertilized eggs are free swimming and spentd5-16 weeks in the water column depending on temperature. This free swimming stage does not look like a clam at all. The shell forms just before settling onto the substrate.

    So if you think about UCI it is hard to imagine with the currents that in the free swimming stage that they could maintain position in close proximity to the spawning area. It may be that the eastside population is being colonized from a population some distance from the area. If they are from offshore populations they must be one heck of a swimmer to ride the tides and stay in one place.

    Next, settling is not a given. In the case of shipworms there is a very narrow window for settling and if it does not happen the clam perishes. I am not sure about razor clams but I suspect there is a similar life history bottleneck. So settling can be very sporadic as to where the clam is located at the time of settling.

    Finally, the juvenile clams are just under the surface in the sand and very susceptible to storms which turns the sand over and over. We have that in UCI in the fall and spring so it is not unlikely that in some years the settling population is destroyed or greatly reduced. Oregon has this happen on their beaches with very sporadic settling and survival.

    So how does one manage a population with this density independent life history. Well, if you get a good set and they make it to harvest-able size you can harvest them quickly and the biomass harvested could be greater than letting some die over time (especially if you are in a high energy coast) vs growth rate. Or one can harvest a percentage each year based on size and probable recruitment frequency (betting on the come so to speak), and one could do detailed monitoring of the settling success and pick a harvest option that suits the user group desire.

    So what is happening on the eastside beach could be due to a variety of factors independent of spawning stock size and that means over-harvest is not the primary cause as harvest is limited to just the inter-tidal areas.

    Hope this helps the discussion
    All your shipworm experience aside, the size of the clams we harvest on East side beaches has gone down steadily since the late 90's. If you pull out a 7-8" clam now days it's a miracle. Used to get a bucket full of them. 7" long, about 3 1/2 wide and 1 1/2 think. Just like a chunk of 2X4. Pretty rare for lots of years.
    The scouring storms haven't helped, but the clams were getting way smaller long before the 2 big events.
    Looking at the beaches here on a minus tide, it looks like a crowd at an outdoor rock concert, only miles and miles long. Wall to wall people for days on end. But the settling problem sounds so good. I doubt it's the main problem though.
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    Quote Originally Posted by SmokeRoss View Post
    All your shipworm experience aside, the size of the clams we harvest on East side beaches has gone down steadily since the late 90's. If you pull out a 7-8" clam now days it's a miracle. Used to get a bucket full of them. 7" long, about 3 1/2 wide and 1 1/2 think. Just like a chunk of 2X4. Pretty rare for lots of years.
    The scouring storms haven't helped, but the clams were getting way smaller long before the 2 big events.
    Looking at the beaches here on a minus tide, it looks like a crowd at an outdoor rock concert, only miles and miles long. Wall to wall people for days on end. But the settling problem sounds so good. I doubt it's the main problem though.
    Size is a function of age and harvest rate. So if the fishery has no limit on size that keeps large clams in the population then the size has to go down by definition. It is the same with a minimum size limit for fish. If you put a 12 inch size limit on rainbow trout in a lake then all the big fish will be taken and average size will be around 12 inches. Lots of research papers on this result from minimum size limits. Also, lots of small clams can mean nothing more that a good set. I have not looked at the ADF&G data on their beach surveys but they may just be protecting these smaller clams to get to a larger size for harvest - part of the options I mentioned above.

    Not sure why the comment on shipworm experience but their life history is similar to razor clams. They have a 25 day larval life and in the area I studied they were distributed widely from the spawning population in a lot less currents than UCI. Population size in clams is all about recruitment to the harvest-able population and settling success is a major part of that. So you doubt it - what is your hypothesis given razor clam life history and density independent factors in that life history? Do you have any experience studying clams to provide additional insight?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cohoangler View Post
    Good questions Extreme. From what I understand, most of the adult razor clams live just offshore where they are not susceptible to harvest. These offshore adults produce the juveniles which are washed up higher onto the beach. It's those clams that settle into the sand higher on the beach that get harvested. So, theoretically, if the offshore stock is maintained, you can have a razor clam harvest indefinitely.
    .
    Well I have to ask, how far is "just off shore"...??? Because up here during a minus tide, "just off shore" could bee a few hundred yards out. I would assume that "juveniles" would be fairly small clams. Some of the clams that I used to dig south of Ninilchik where huge. No way would I ever think they were juvenile clams. I can understand down there, with your tides, the adult clams never being touched but up here I do believe we are digging adult clams.

    This was probably the last time I took the kids to clam south of Ninilchik.....

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    I get what Nerka is saying and I don't believe overharvest is the only factor. It may not even be the biggest one.
    I know we did have at least one serious scouring event a few years back.
    But when the east side is not having the same issues and they even have some commercial harvest I have to believe that overharvest is certainly a plausible culprit in the low numbers.
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  18. #18

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    I think scouring events, high harvest rates, and poor settling success are all factors.

    The popularity of clamming has increased steadily. Over the last decade, we have had several MAJOR scouring events - they made the newspaper. Our clams grow slower, but live longer and get larger than those on the west coast. Settling success is a big factor - I read an ADFG article that said it's not uncommon for conditions to be right for a good population to settle something like every 3-5 years, then they must grow which I believe takes at least that long.

    I believe the large scouring events killed young and old alike, conditions possibly have not been that great for them to settle, and even when they some do settle they are being dug faster than they can grow. Not a lot of clams at the gulch right now, and there hasn't been for a few years. Before that, there were a few years where they were plentiful, but small. The large clams have not been plentiful at Clam Gulch for some time - I believe since the major winter scouring events some years back.

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    Quote Originally Posted by fishNphysician View Post
    More restraint is definitely the way to go.

    WA's razor clam beaches are managed VERY conservatively.... arguably the best-managed all-wild self-sustaining fishery in the state.

    Limits are small... first 15 clams dug, regardless of size.... small enough portions that most folks just eat them fresh and simply return for more on another day. This discourages the mass-pillaging of the beaches by the 'dig-as-many-as-you-can-in-one-sitting-N-stockpile-em-for-the-freezer' crowd. An annual stock assessment is performed, and exploitation rates have been managed on the order of 25-30% annually.
    I agree that clams are probably the best managed wild fishery in Washington, but it is helped by the natural conditions here. When there is a good set, there can be 1500 to 2000 young clams PER SQUARE FOOT. You also see way more diatoms (what clams eat) in the water than in Alaska. I tend to agree with Nerka on the demise of the Kenai clam beds. I think it's more a natural event than a harvest event. That's not to say that limiting harvest won't help at the present. But it also may not unless whatever natural event happened goes away. It's possible when the storms turned the beaches and caused the die off, it got to the beds of offshore clams too. Or maybe an ice event scoured them, say the wind blowing from the west when ice was coming out of the Inlet. If those beds got seriously damaged, their spawning power is gone too, so recruitment may not be keeping up with harvest.

    But as for clam hogs, (you would call my family that) the 15 clam limit hasn't lowered how many clams we get in a year. In fact we probably dig more now than we did when I was young and the limit was 24. The reason being, in the old days we would make a couple weekend treks to the beach and then, what we didn't eat fresh, mom would take to Wests custom cannery and can them for chowder. This way we could get most of what we used in a year in a short efficient digging session. When we wanted fresh clams, we might head out once a month and have all we wanted to eat fresh. Now that the season is shortened and the limit is 15, every tide that is open is precious so we might go 5 to 7 days in a row every time it's open. usually every two weeks all winter. So we eat lots fresh, can up whatever chowder clams we want, then I take the rest to Anthony and have him make us some of his famous razor clam sausage. That is some good stuff! So we get more clams and burn a lot more gas doing it.

    No matter how hard you think the beaches on the Kenai get hit for clams, it's nothing like we have here in Washington, but these beaches can handle the pressure, at least for the time being. If another NIX infestation or some other disease hits our beaches, we'll probably get cut way back. Or if the oil trains come to the Harbor as planned, and they start shipping oil out of here, it may just be a matter of time before something happens and the beaches are polluted. For now I'm gonna enjoy the bounty.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kasilofchrisn View Post
    west side is not having the same issues and they even have some commercial harvest
    I don't know much about this commercial fishery. What is the quota/limits/take? How do the harvest numbers compare to estimated harvest from the East side?
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