Beach Access Roads, and Razor Clamming, Closed Due to COVID-19

Access to Pacific Beach via Analyde Gap Road closed due to COVID-19. The beach is just around the corner down a steep incline. All beach access roads in Grays Harbor and Pacific counties were closed March 22 and with it razor clamming. Credit Jamie Garner.

Razor clamming came to a halt in late March 2020 to the great disappointment of many. What, we can’t go razor clamming? It seemed like the perfect antidote to social distancing and being cooped up in the house. The beach, the good salt air, the clams. Just a week before WDFW had said the dig was a go. But then WDFW said nope and cancelled the late March and April digs.

Of course, WDFW also put a halt to all fishing. That had outdoor folk climbing the walls. People were canoeing, motor boating, and paddle boarding. Why couldn’t a fisher throw out a line or go out in a float tube? One explanation was about hazards to WDFW personnel who might be at risk doing regulatory enforcement.

As far as razor clamming, a different explanation was that it wasn’t WDFW precisely, but health authorities in Grays Harbor and Pacific counties with whom WDFW consulted who wanted the digs cancelled; they didn’t want legions of visitors coming to their towns potentially spreading the virus. Indeed, Pacific County ordered its beach access roads closed on March 22. That was the same day Gov. Inslee  required hotels, motels and other hospitality lodgings to close. WDFW had little choice but to follow suit and cancel scheduled digs.

The Seattle Times ran a story about Long Beach and a prevailing attitude of residents:  “Your vacation is not worth our lives. Go home. Stay home. Save lives.”

As of this writing, April 27th, boat ramps are expected to reopen May 5th along with some warm-water fishing, and razor clamming  sometime  thereafter. Here’s hoping there will be some razor clamming in May and maybe even into June. Those are months with favorable morning tides that diggers love.

As Joni Mitchell famously sang, you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In The Spokesman-Review

Symbols of Washington, from The Spokesman-Review

The Spokesman-Review newspaper of Spokane published a story in 2019 about the effort to make the razor clam the state clam.

<<“Razor clams are very important to our district,” said Sen. Dean Takko, D-Longview. They’re part of the draw that brings between 30,000 and 40,000 people each year to the Long Beach peninsula alone.

Jim Franzel, a retired U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologist who said he has dug clams since 1958, all up and down the Northwest coast, said they draw 400,000 “digger trips” to Washington beaches a year.

There’s one other element that could weigh heavily in favor of naming this state clam if the bill makes it to the Senate floor in the coming days. Lawmakers will be struggling with some contentious budget issues, and may need a chance to insert a bit of levity.

Along with the economic factors, “it’s sure to be a great source of puns.” >>

 

Full story:

Washington could elevate razor clam to special status

Razor Clams on Parade, 1912

Razor-clam shell costumes worn by the ELKS fraternal organization during their 1912 parade in Portland, Oregon. Pretty snazzy. Image was used on a postcard.

Out of One Cmte and into another…

House Bill 1061, designating the razor clam as the state clam, moved out of the State Governance and Tribal Affairs Committee on Friday February 22nd. It now moves to the Rules Committee, which will hopefully move the bill to a vote in House. Please remember to write your legislators and let them know you support the bill!

New Bill, HB 1061, for the 2019 Legislative Session

A new bill has been prefiled for the upcoming legislative session. The 105-day session begins Jan. 14. If passed, the razor clam, Siliqua patula, would join the ranks of the American goldfish, Walla Walla sweet onion, green darner dragonfly, and the orca as a state symbol.

Razor Clamming for Survival in the 1920s and 1930s

 

Vern and Ella Worthington, 2007, courtesy Chinook Observer

Ella and Vernon Worthington passed away not that long ago. They were both over 100 years old. The frugal dairy farmers managed to save a million dollars and left generous bequests to ocean environmental organizations. They grew up and married on the Long Beach peninsula, home to great razor clam beaches, and their lives were unavoidably involved with razor clams.

Ella recalled how razor clamming was essential for survival in a May 14, 2018 story in the Chinook Observer: “There were no jobs in the 1920s and 1930s,” Ella said. “We worked in the cranberry bogs, dug razor clams, and Vern worked on the oyster beds and I worked in the steam canneries. We didn’t have time to feel sorry because we were poor. We were too busy and having too much fun with our friends.”

Ella moved to the Peninsula from West Virginia when she was five years old, the ninth of 10 children.  She dug “hundreds of clams” before going to school each morning.

Said Kolb [a relative], “Aunt Ella once told me she had dug over two tons of clams in her day. I remember going clamming with her when I was a kid. She always dug in the surf and, man! Was she quick! She’d have her limit before most of us had our first clam!”

Read the full story in the Chinook Observer here.

Gorgeous Clamming March 16th, 2018 at Copalis Beach

Beach near Ocean Shores, 6:30 PM.  Easy digging, gentle surf, good-sized clams, and plenty of happy people.  Photo credit David Berger

This was Friday just before St. Patrick’s Day. The low tide was at 7:00 PM. I hit the beach at 5:30 PM and the sun was still high in the sky because daylight savings time had just started. So, no headlamp needed.  Surf was calm and everybody remembered just why they like razor clamming so much. I was using a shovel. I found one clam right away, I could see its siphon level with sand. I spotted several others, but couldn’t put them in the net despite a substantial effort digging around with my hand.  That was tiring. The clams were darned deep. Then I got dialed in. I had a limit within an hour.

Fish and Wildlife counted nearly 2,000 diggers in the Copalis management area, which includes Ocean Shores and extends up to the Copalis River. Nearly everyone had a limit, and some 28,000 clams were harvested. On Saturday there were about 3,200 diggers, and 47,000 clams harvested.

It’s Not Always Easy

A lot of people can show up on a good clamming tide, as this cartoon captures. And a lot of vehicles! Bob McCausland was the artist. He cartooned at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer for decades before retiring to the coast where he continued to capture local foibles with pen and ink.

This dig was at Twin Harbors. That location is somewhat notorious for fickle clams. It’s frustrating not to get clams when you know they are there. “Am I losing my touch?” you might wonder.  “Have I forgotten how to dig?” You  pound the beach with shovel or tube, trying to force a show, but the clams are off partying. Guess that meal of fried clams will have to wait.

Bill Drafted!!

A bill has been drafted and introduced! HB 3001 designates the Pacific razor clam as the state clam. Thanks to Representatives Brian Blake, Joel Kretz, Steve Tharinger and Jim Walsh. Please write them and let them know you appreciate their support.

You can view the bill introduction and comment on the bill at the state legislative site. Please comment! You can read the bill itself on the state legislative site here.

It is too late for the bill to pass this session. But we are eager to spread the word and build support  so it can pass in the next legislative session in 2019. So please comment at the legislative site, send letters to your representatives, sign the petition on this site, and have your organization pass a resolution of support and let us know. Thank you.

 

 

Should the Razor clam be the state clam?

We think so but what do you think?