Washington's Coast
Washington State Department of Ecology

razor clam
gray whale
humpback whale
Razor clams

Survival in surf
Along Washington's rugged coast, rough surf can blast an animal out of a sandy burrow. The razor clam, uncovered by waves, can bury itself in seconds.
The Pacific Razor Clam, Saliqua Patula, can be found on the broad, sandy, surf-swept beaches of Washington's outer coast between the Columbia River and Point Grenville.

Caramel-colored skin
The periostracum, or caramel-brown layer on the shell, wears away when brushed by surf or scorched by the sun. The thin elongated shells can reach nine inches.
pea crab
Sharing a shell
A tiny crab called the pea crab can be found inside razor clam's shell.
Creatures in the clam
  • The pea crab lives inside the razor clam's shell. The pea crab may slow the growth of the razor clam, some biologists say, making it a parasite.
  • The razor clam also shares its shell with a worm. Using a sucker disk, the worm hangs on the clam's siphon and collects food as it circulates in. The worm is not considered harmful to the clam.
Razor clams rely on the Columbia River
Razor clams need what the Columbia River provides. The main food for razor clams are the microscopic diatoms, Chaetoceros armatum and Asterionella socialis. These diatoms need waterborne silicon, an element found in the volcanic rocks of the Cascades and Rockies. This mountain silicon is carried to sea by the Columbia River. Waves and currents distribute the silicon to the prime razor clam beaches -- from Tillamook Head, Oregon to Leadbetter Point, Washington.
Poisonous phytoplanktons
  • During certain times of the year, marine toxins, produced by some species of diatoms (algae) are taken in by razor clams. When eaten, these toxins can make people sick and in some concentrations, can be fatal.
  • Clams are tested regularly. If high toxin levels are detected, clam seasons are delayed or closed. For information on beach closures, check the Department of Health's Beach Closure web page.
clammers Before digging for razor clams
Check with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife for updates on regulations, licenses, and beach closures.
Images courtesy of the Olympic Coast Marine Sanctuary; Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Razor Clams, Washington State Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. Razor clam seasons, amnesic shellfish poisoning, how to dig; how to prevent waste; how to clean razor clams.

Shellfish: Biotoxins and Illness Prevention, Washington State Department of Health The Biotoxin Program performs year-round monitoring of Paralytic Shellfish Poison (PSP, also known as red tide), and Amnesic Shellfish Poison (ASP, or domoic acid), and Diarrhetic Shellfish Poisoning (DSP or "okadaic acid"), biotoxins commonly found in Washington's marine waters.  Find information on shellfish safety and beach closures.

Marine Biotoxins and Harmful Algal Blooms, Northwest Fisheries and Science Center, NOAA News and science updates on harmful algal blooms affecting razor clams.

Coastal Washington, Washington State Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. Razor clam season updates and wildlife viewing opportunities.

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