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The Olympic Region Harmful Algal Bloom (ORHAB) Partnership Enables Proactive Management of Coastal Razor Clam Resource

An "ORHAB Alert" was sent to coastal managers from WDOH and WDFW on May 8 and 9, 2002 indicating that there had been a recent rapid rise in Pseudo-nitzschia cell counts at Kalaloch, Copalis, Twin Harbors and Long Beach. As a result, these agencies collected and analyzed razor clam samples over the weekend to assure a safe product for commercial and recreational diggers. This is a particularly active time of razor clam harvest. The final springtime sport harvest (recreational dig) of razor clams was on Saturday, May 11 at Copalis and Twin Harbors beaches. The Willapa Bay non-tribal, commercial harvest, involving 6-7 companies, started on Sunday, May 12. A Quinault Tribe commercial dig at Mocrocks and Kalaloch will begin on Wednesday, May 15.

An unprecedented weekend of teamwork involving WDOH, WDFW, and ORHAB personnel enabled proactive testing of razor clams, potentially preventing a last minute scurry to contact people by news media to close the beaches for digging. On Saturday, May 12, Jerry Borchert of WDOH collected clam samples from Twin Harbors that were sent by bus to the lab in Seattle for testing. On Sunday, Joe Schumacker, the Quinault tribal biologist collected clams from Mocrocks and Kalaloch then sent them via express mail to the lab in Seattle. All samples were on the machine and testing was complete before the Quinault tribal dig began on Wednesday. The samples came back negative for toxin (4 ppm maximum domoic acid at Willapa Spit), assuring all that the product was safe to consume and sell.

In summary, the ORHAB partnership has allowed managers to become proactive in their testing for toxins. They are no longer in the dark, having no idea what toxin levels might be present in nearshore coastal waters, and therefore also in the razor clams. Because of ORHAB, fewer clam samples are collected for routine monitoring. Before ORHAB, clams were collected at 13 sites before an opening. Now because numbers of Pseudo-nitzschia are determined on a biweekly basis at Kalaloch, Copalis, Twin Harbors and Long Beach, WDFW collects razor clams at only 6 sites (Twin Harbors, Long Beach (2), Copalis, Mocrocks, Kalaloch) prior to a clam dig. This greatly reduces the cost of management by requiring smaller crews, fewer vehicles for those crews, lower shipping cost of samples sent to Seattle for testing, and overall reduced cost for sample testing. Staff does not need to be pulled away from other duties, thereby causing all WDFW activities to come to a grinding halt.

The coastal community is ecstatic about the amount of razor clam harvest this year. There is a maximum opportunity to utilize the resource. There will again be a huge crop of razor clams available this September. Although the state managers are holding their breath in anticipation of a possible HAB that might affect that clam harvest. Coastal communities can continue to fill their freezers with the delectable razor clams and reap the economic benefits from their sales.

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