Anyone 15 years of age or over needs an annual license to harvest shellfish, such as clams and oysters, unless you are harvesting from your own private beach. You can be fined if you harvest shellfish over the allowable limit, or under the legal minimum size. You can purchase an inexpensive plastic gauge at most sporting goods stores to measure your clams, shrimp and crabs.
Following beach closure recommendations: Before you head to the beach to dig for shellfish, ALWAYS check to see if a beach is approved and open for recreational harvest. Check for closures just before you leave by calling the 24-hour Shellfish Safety Hotline at 1-800-562-5632 or check the State of Washington Health Department’s Shellfish Safety Information Shellfish Safety website at www.doh.wa.gov/CommunityandEnvironment/Shellfish
The Washington State Department of Health (WDOH) classifies recreational shellfish harvest beaches as to whether they are safe for gathering shellfish. They can be closed to harvest for a number of reasons, including pollution, harmful algal blooms, or biotoxins in the shellfish. The classifications are open, conditionally open, emergency closure, closed, and unclassified. Note that open classifications don’t always mean you can harvest. The Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) sets limits and harvest seasons to prevent overharvesting. Check WDFW’s website to make sure you can legally harvest at the location you plan to harvest. Because harvest limits, seasons, and even shellfish consumption safety depends on the type of shellfish you harvest, knowing how to identify the different shellfish types is important. WDFW’s website also includes identification guides for common shellfish species in our region.