Division of Sport Fish
Israel Payton, Director

Anchorage Headquarters Office
333 Raspberry Road
Anchorage, AK 99518

Alaska Department of Fish and Game
Doug Vincent-Lang, Commissioner

P.O. Box 115526
Juneau, AK 99811-5526

Advisory Announcement
(Released: May 23, 2023 - Expired: July 04, 2023)

CONTACT: Mike Booz
Area Management Biologist
(907) 235-8191

East Cook Inlet Sport Razor Clam Fisheries Open in Ninilchik Area

(Homer) - The Alaska Department of Fish and Game recently completed the annual razor clam abundance surveys at both Clam Gulch and Ninilchik beaches. Results indicate the abundance of adult (≥80mm) clams is below the abundance threshold required to open a limited fishery at Clam Gulch and above the abundance threshold in Ninilchik. This means the sport and personal use razor clam fisheries in the Clam Gulch Area will remain closed for 2023, but there will be a limited harvest opportunity this season in the Ninilchik Area. The season will be 4 days, from Saturday, July 1 through Tuesday, July 4, 2023, and the bag and possession limits will be the first 15 clams dug. The Ninilchik Area includes all beaches along the Kenai Peninsula from 3 miles north of the Ninilchik River at latitude 60° 50.54’ N. lat. near Lemans Point south to the tip of the Homer Spit.

In March 2022, the Alaska Board of Fisheries adopted a management plan for east Cook Inlet razor clams that requires the adult clam abundance to meet or exceed 50% of the historical average abundance to open a limited harvest opportunity. The plan also identifies that the harvest in the limited fishery is not expected to exceed 10% of the total adult abundance. In the Clam Gulch Area, razor clam abundance was assessed at the north beach and the adult abundance was 520,881 clams, which was 46% below the abundance threshold to open the limited fishery in the Clam Gulch Area. In the Ninilchik Area, razor clam abundance was assessed at the south beach and the adult abundance was 322,217 clams, which was 35% above the abundance threshold to open the limited fishery in the Ninilchik Area.

Despite the fishery closure since 2015, east Cook Inlet razor clams are failing to recover to historical levels. Since the closure, there have been intermittent moderate to strong juvenile clam recruitments on the Ninilchik beaches, and more consistent strong annual juvenile clam recruitments to the Clam Gulch beaches. Clams in both areas have experienced very poor growth rates in most years, resulting in the clams taking an extra year or two to reach the adult size, or never reaching it at all. Clams in both areas are also experiencing high rates of natural mortality each winter. The strong juvenile recruitments indicate that despite the poor growth and low survival, clams are successfully spawning and settling onto the beach as juveniles. The 2023 adult clam abundance at Ninilchik is much improved over almost all the annual abundances since 2013. Unfortunately, the 2023 juvenile abundance at Ninilchik is the lowest since 2013, which indicates that there will not be a sufficient adult abundance for the fishery to open in 2024 or 2025. The 2023 juvenile and adult abundances at Clam Gulch indicate that the fishery will likely continue to remain closed over the next few years.

Given these trends, and that the anticipated effort in 2023 in the Ninilchik Area is unknown, reducing the season and bag and possession limits from the limited fishery outlined in the management plan is necessary to ensure that the harvest does not exceed 10% of the adult abundance. Maintaining a low harvest rate will allow the opportunity for the clams to rebuild while providing a small harvest opportunity on clams that have previously spawned.

“We are excited for people to have a chance to dig razor clams this summer,” said Lower Cook Inlet Area Management Biologist Mike Booz. “Unfortunately, the current status requires this opportunity to be small this year and we are not expecting the fishery to be open next year.”

For additional information, please contact Area Management Biologist Mike Booz or Assistant Area Management Biologist Holly Dickson at (907) 235-8191.