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You can't blame clamming closure on COVID-19

I see everything is getting canceled left and right over concerns about the spread of COVID-19. I was thinking about adding to my social distancing by heading to the Oregon Coast to do some surf fishing and clamming. Please tell me that stuff’s still open.

— Ben, Medford

Well, Ben, we hate to break it to you, but ... razor clamming is now closed from Cascade Head near Lincoln City all the way south to the California border.

But COVID-19 is not the culprit here.

It’s domoic acid.

Domoic acid levels in razor clams eclipsed healthy levels in recent tests along the closure area, hence Monday’s announcement by the Oregon Department of Agriculture and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Recreational and commercial razor clam harvesting remains open from the Columbia River down to Cascade Head. Also, bay clams, crabs and mussel harvesting remains open for the entire Oregon Coast, so you at least have those options, Ben.

Razor clams are filter feeders so they pick up high concentrations of the biotoxins, but their levels can also dissipate quickly.

Domoic acid is nothing to play with. A toxin produced by algae, domoic acid has been found at high levels in razor clams along the Oregon Coast this year. Dungeness crabs collect the acid by eating razor clams.

Domoic acid, also called amnesic shellfish toxin, can cause minor to severe illness and even death in humans. Severe poisoning can result in dizziness, headaches, vomiting and diarrhea. More severe cases can result in memory loss and death. Shellfish toxins are produced by algae and originate in the ocean.

Removal of the advisory requires two consecutive tests in the safe range.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@rosebudmedia.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.