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East side beaches will be closed to clamming, again

Fish and Game is hopeful it will be able to open at least some beaches on the east side of Cook Inlet to clamming this year.
Sabine Poux
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game surveys the Ninilchik beach for clams last April.

Beaches in Clam Gulch and Ninilchik, once known for their abundance of clams, will be closed to clammers for the ninth year in a row next summer.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced the closure this week in response to continually low numbers on the east side of Cook Inlet. The clam population there crashed about a decade ago and has been slow to bounce back. In the meantime, clammers and sportfish charters have been taking their shovels over to the westside of the inlet, where the population is healthier.

Slight improvements spurred the Alaska Board of Fish to set a threshold earlier this year for reopening the fisheries, with limits.

“The fishery would open if the abundance of adult clams at either Clam Gulch or Ninilchik would be at least 50 percent of the historical average abundance," said Mike Booz, area manager for the sportfish division of Fish and Game.

In the spring, his department took to the beaches in Ninilchik and Clam Gulch to count clams.

But despite the optimism, they were disappointed by poor growth and survivability and kept the beaches closed.

That’s looking to be the case again this year. Still, Booz said they’ll be out on the beach doing surveys come spring.

“Extremely cautiously optimistic, would be the best way to describe it, for a chance for the Ninilchik area to open this year," he said.

He said Ninilchik has a cohort of 3-year-old clams that has been showing low growth but is surviving.

Clam Gulch hasn’t been looking so good. Last year, the department saw a natural mortality of about 90 percent for adult clams.

“It would take a big surprise for Clam Gulch to open," Booz said.

Surveys for the upcoming 2023 season start in April.

Sabine Poux is a producer and reporter for the Brave Little State podcast of Vermont Public. She was formerly news director and evening news host at KDLL in Kenai.

Originally from New York, Sabine has lived and reported in Argentina and Vermont and Kenai.
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