A new study from NCCOS-funded researchers estimates a range of economic impacts that result from harmful algal bloom–related cancellations of razor clam digs at Long Beach, Washington — the most popular beach in the state for recreational clam diggers. The recreational razor clam fishery is the largest recreational bivalve fishery in the Pacific Northwest and a major source of tourism-related income to small communities in the region.
In Long Beach alone, the research team’s analysis of daily foot traffic data and razor clam management data indicates that a full season closure from October to May can lead to revenue losses in excess of $840,000 for area hotels, restaurants, grocery stores, and gas stations. Regionally, the study estimates that the recreational razor clam fishery generates as much as $40 million in Washington and $12 million in Oregon, annually.
Blooms of Pseudo-nitzschia algae along the Washington and Oregon coasts sometimes produce the neurotoxin domoic acid, which at high levels causes amnesic shellfish poisoning (ASP) in people who consume contaminated shellfish. ASP can be fatal or lead to memory loss, disorientation, gastrointestinal distress, seizures, and coma. State agencies monitor commercial and recreational shellfisheries for algal toxins and close fisheries when domoic acid exceeds safe levels.
Since 2017, the NOAA-funded Pacific Northwest Harmful Algal Bloom Forecast and Monitoring System has provided coastal shellfish managers with early warnings of toxic Pseudo-nitzschia blooms. The forecast enables adaptive strategies (e.g., early opening of clamming season, right-sizing perishable food inventory intended for clam diggers) that can help mitigate economic losses associated with shellfishery closures. The system is a partnership between NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, NOAA’s Integrated Ocean Observing System, the Northwest Association of Networked Ocean Observing Systems, the University of Washington, the Makah Tribe, the University of Strathclyde, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.