A RARE KALALOCH beach razor clam dig originally scheduled for Saturday through Monday has been scuttled due to the ongoing federal government shutdown.
At the request of Olympic National Park, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife has canceled razor clam digs scheduled for Kalaloch beach Saturday through Monday.
This canceled dig would have been just the second razor clam dig opening at Kalaloch since 2012, the last coming in 2017.
Lee Taylor, Olympic National Park acting superintendent, declined to discuss the park’s reasoning behind the cancellation, but a later park press release said it was “due to the federal government lapse of appropriations.”
Fish and Wildlife, Olympic National Park and treaty tribes co-manage razor clam digs at Kalaloch, which is located within the park.
Fish and Wildlife coastal shellfish manager Dan Ayres confirmed Wednesday that thee request came as a result of the government shutdown.
“It’s at the park’s request and clearly an unfortunate consequence of the government shutdown,” Ayres said.
“The park doesn’t have personnel for law enforcement or to collect harvest data at the digs.”
State offered assistance
Ayres was asked if Fish and Wildlife offered to provide department law enforcement personnel to supervise the digs and to share harvest data collected by scientists during the digs.
“We did, but it’s a little complicated by the fact that our law enforcement [officers] have no authority on national park land. They could check diggers leaving the area on [U.S.] Highway 101. We offered to try to collect as much data as we could.”
About 20 Olympic National Park staff are continuing full-time duties in law enforcement to provide public safety services and in utilities to maintain water and sewer systems, Taylor said in an earlier Peninsula Daily News story on the shutdown’s impact on Olympic National Park.
The remainder have been furloughed.
“We have the minimum number we need to sustain those emergency functions,” Taylor said at the time.
The canceled digs were approved by both Fish and Wildife and Olympic National Park prior to the government shutdown, which began Dec. 22 and is now the longest in U.S. history.
“Ahead of time, certainly we were in agreement to hold the digs,” Ayres said.
“After the shutdown we had trouble reaching park representatives, so we waded ahead, collecting and processing health samples. So from our standpoint, we went ahead.”
Ayres said Fish and Wildlife plans to work with the park on some alternative dig dates to make up for the loss of opportunity.
“That is complicated by the uncertainty of the shutdown,” Ayres said.
Ayres said in an earlier interview Tuesday that Kalaloch is on the list of proposed digs set Feb. 16-18 (depending on the results of toxin testing and the re-opening of the federal government).
The Kalaloch cancellation is a bummer, that’s for certain. Hopefully, cooler heads prevail and the next round of digs in February are held as planned.
In the meantime, razor clams have another month to grow.
Ayres said Kalaloch’s clam population is averaging right around 4 inches per clam.
“They are all about the same size,” Ayres said. “We’ve been measuring these clams as we’ve collected health samples, done several population studies and they are right on 4 inches on average. Not monsterous, but the average size on the beaches to the south is not that much bigger.”
“In general, razors are smaller this season,” Ayres said.
“Down at Mocrocks the average is 4.25 inches. We’ve had one day of digging at Long Beach and those clams averaged under 4 inches.
Razor clam info
If you had your heart set on digging this weekend, take heart, there are other ocean beaches open.
The following beaches, dates, and evening low tides remain open to razor clamming:
• Today: 3:39 p.m.; 0.4 feet; Twin Harbors
• Friday: 4:30 p.m.; -0.4 feet; Twin Harbors
• Saturday: 5:18 p.m.; -1.1 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
• Sunday, Jan. 21: 6:05 p.m.; -1.6 feet; Twin Harbors, Copalis
• Monday, Jan. 21: 6:51 p.m.; -1.8 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
All diggers age 15 or older must have an applicable 2018-19 fishing license to dig razor clams on any beach.
Under state law, diggers at open beaches can take 15 razor clams per day and are required to keep the first 15 they dig. Each digger’s clamsmust be kept in a separate container.
Sports reporter Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-417-3525 or [email protected]