The California Fish and Game Commission on Monday voted 3-0 in favor of an emergency rulemaking to prohibit recreational take and possession of razor clam from Humboldt and Del Norte county beaches. The closure is now in effect. Closure of the fishery shall remain in effect until the Director of the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), in consultation with the Director of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), determines that domoic acid levels no longer pose a significant risk to public health and no longer recommends the fishery be closed.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) will maintain a list of closed beaches of the state and update that list on Wednesday of each week by 1 p.m. It shall be the responsibility of any person prior to taking razor clams in Humboldt and Del Norte counties to call CDFW’s hotline (831) 649-2883 or visit CDFW’s website at www.wildlife.ca.gov/fishing/ocean/health-advisories to obtain the current status of any ocean beach in those counties.
A CDPH health advisory has been in effect for razor clams in Humboldt and Del Norte counties since August 2015 due to elevated domoic acid levels. Results from the most recent tests showed that the health risk to humans from consumption of razor clams remains significant, prompting CDPH to reissue a health advisory on April 20. OEHHA followed that with a recommendation for fishery closure. The domoic acid present in razor clams remains from the massive toxic algal bloom of Pseudo-nitzschia that occurred last year in the Pacific Ocean. Algal blooms are common, but this one was particularly large and persistent. CDPH has advised that razor clams are known to retain domoic acid for long periods of time, in some cases more than a year.
CDFW will continue to coordinate with OEHHA and CDPH to test domoic acid levels in razor clams along the north coast to determine when the fishery can safely be opened.
Domoic acid is a potent neurotoxin that can accumulate in shellfish, other invertebrates and sometimes fish. It causes illness and sometimes death in a variety of birds and marine mammals that consume affected organisms. At low levels, domoic acid exposure can cause nausea, diarrhea and dizziness in humans. At higher levels, it can cause persistent short-term memory loss, seizures and can in some cases be fatal.
OEHHA Memo 4/20/2016: http://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=122446&inline
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937