TACOMA — Early indicators show the upcoming razor clam season should be similar to the 2012-13 season, which was the best in the past 15 years. And this year's season will get an early start with the dig at Twin Harbors Beach running Thursday through Sept. 23.
"Tests (this summer) show an even higher density of razor clams on most beaches than last year, when diggers enjoyed a banner season," said Dan Ayres, coastal shellfish manager for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. "That will translate into more days of digging at popular beaches such as Long Beach and Twin Harbors, so long as we don't have any marine toxin issues."
Assessments show the number of clams per square meter is up at every beach along the Washington coast compared to the 2012-13 season.
In the 2012-13 season, diggers harvested 6.1 million razor clams, the highest number in 15 years. The more than 417,000 diggers who took part that season averaged 14.5 clams per day, just shy of the 15-clam-per-person legal limit.
That came after a dismal 2011-12 season that saw the lowest harvest and effort in the past 12 years. Diggers that season ended up with 2.5 million clams harvested in 195,000 digger trips. Ayres attributed the decline that season to the natural cycle of clam populations.
The one beach that remains a concern is Kalaloch, which has been closed the past two seasons because of low clam populations since 2009. Clam densities there are just 0.76 clams per square meter, up slightly from .66 in 2012-13.
The state razor clam season is vital to the economies of several small coastal communities, according to a study conducted by the University of Washington.
Clam populations by beach
• 2013-14 population: 7,387,752, up from 5,356,383 in the previous season.
• 2013-14 total allowable catch: 2,881,223, up from 1,606,915 in the previous season.
• Average density: 1.03 clams per square meter, up from 0.75 per square meter in 2012.
• Average clam size: 4.4 inches, up from 3.99 inches in 2012.
• Best areas: The populations get better the farther north you go on the peninsula, including Ocean Park and Oysterville.
• 2013-14 population: 5,744,411, up from 4,704,458.
• 2013-14 total allowable catch: 2,297,764, up from 1,411,337.
• Average density: 3.15 clams per square meter, up from 2.58 per square meter.
• Average clam size: 4.4 inches, up from 3.9 inches.
Best areas: The North Cove, County Line and Grayland areas.
2013-14 population: 7,472,919, up from 7,151,264.
2013-14 total allowable catch (state's share): 1,120,938, up from 1,072,690.
Average density: 2.22 clams per square meter, up from 2.12 per square meter in 2012.
Average clam size: 4.4 inches, up from 4 inches in 2012.
Best areas: From Ocean Shores to Ocean City, and the Copalis area.
2013-14 population: 11,935,249, up from 6,064,416.
2013-14 total allowable catch (state's share): 1,790,287, up from 909,667.
Average density: 5.47 clams per square meter, up from 2.78 per square meter.
Average clam size: 4.2 inches, up from 4.1 inches in 2012.
Best areas: Ayres describes this area as "razor clam central." The 2013 population assessment is nearly double last year's 6.06 million. Roosevelt Beach, Copalis Beach and Pacific Beach all have high densities.
2013-14 population: 1,033,286, up from 894,041.
2013-14 total allowable catch (state's share): 131,227, up from 113,543.
Average density: 0.76 clams per square meter, up from 0.66 per square meter.
Average clam size: 3.7 inches, up from 3.5 inches in 2012.
Best areas: The possibility of digs occurring here will be determined in talks with the National Park Service and Olympic National Park staffers.