Changes come for shellfish harvesting in Oregon

NEWPORT, Ore. -- Clam diggers may harvest twice as many purple varnish clams in 2013 as they did in previous years, and divers must report their rock scallop harvest, in changes to regulations.

In response to a public proposal, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission increased the daily catch limit for purple varnish clams from 36 per day to 72 per day.

The purple varnish clam is also known throughout the Pacific Northwest as the purple mahogany clam, the dark mahogany clam, the varnish clam and the savory clam.

Purple varnish clams are a non-native species from Asia that was introduced into British Columbia and Puget Sound in the early 1990s via ships' ballast water.

Populations of purple varnish clams are well established in several Oregon bays and estuaries including Sand Lake, Siletz Bay, Alsea Bay, Siuslaw River estuary and Coos Bay.

Clam diggers in Oregon must possess a valid Oregon shellfish license ($7for Oregon residents; $20.50 for non-residents).

Also starting in 2013, divers who harvest rock scallops will be required to report their catch to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife using a free harvest card.

Since 1996, ODFW has required all recreational abalone harvesters to complete an annual harvest card. This same card now includes space for rock scallop harvesters to report their catch.

Through this reporting, abalone and rock scallop harvesters will provide important information about these resources to ODFW biologists and improve their ability to manage them.

Anyone recreationally harvesting abalone or rock scallops will need to obtain the free abalone and scallop harvest card in addition to an Oregon shellfish license. The harvest card is easy to get and simple to complete. Limits for abalone and rock scallops remain the same: one per day and five per year for abalone and 24 rock scallops per day.

ODFW says shellfish can be contaminated by natural events such as harmful algal blooms or man-made events such as sewage spills. Always check the Oregon Department of Agriculture Shellfish Safety Hotline at 503-986-4728 or 1-800-448-2474, or visit their Web site for the most recent public health advisories and closures.