Biologists optimistic about razor clam recovery, eventually

Jun 12, 2018

All Kenai Peninsula clamming beaches remain closed due to a population crash.
Credit ADF&G

Judging by the dearth of clam-bakes on the beaches of the Kenai Peninsula this year, it’s safe to say sport clamming for the tasty morsels is closed again.

After a crash in adult population six years ago and a one-year reduction in harvest allowance, clamming was closed.

Carol Kerkvliet is the Lower Cook Inlet sports fish area management biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Homer.

“What do we attribute to the poor recruitment? It could be a number for things. Everything points to environmental factors. We’ve considered ocean acidification but if that is the case, then why is it impacting the East Side beaches and doesn’t seem to be impacting the west side beaches?" she said. "The other thing is changes in habitat - shifting sands. There may be some impact there, and changes over time.”

She said the department is determined to find out what is happening to the popular sport-bivalve.

“Yeah, we’re putting a lot of effort into understanding razor clams on these beaches and looking at better defining habitat," Kerkvliet said. "And we’ve fine-tuned our abundance sampling to get at the best estimates that we can produce.”

And despite another year with no clamming on Kenai Peninsula beaches, Kerkvliet describes herself as hopeful for the future.

“Right now what we need are these juvenile sized clams to survive not adulthood. And to have a wide array of ages on these beaches, and abundances, signaling that they can support harvest," she said. "And until we get that assurance, the beaches will stay closed.”

She said abundance surveys will be done yearly to gauge the return of the razor clams.