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Common shellfish violations

OSP officers talk about common mistakes clammers and crabbers make

You’ve seen the patrols along the beach, on the water and in small towns all along the coast. Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife Troopers protect our natural resources by making sure people maintain legal harvest numbers. What are the most common violations you encounter?
Yvonne Shaw, ODFW Stop Poaching campaign coordinator, interviewed OSP Fish and Wildlife Sergeants Joe Warwick and Greg Plummer. Here’s what they had to say:

Q: What are some common violations you see for people digging clams at the beach?

Sgt. Warwick: Definitely people digging more than their limit of 15 for razor clams. Especially if it’s good digging. People go out there and they dig their limits in a few minutes, then they’re done. And for some people it’s a lot of work just to get out on the beach. They have to get the gear together, they might have to drive from a distance. They aren’t ready to be done- especially if they can see clams while they’re walking back to the car.

Q: What else are they likely to do?

Sgt Warwick: Another issue is when some people are better diggers than the other people in their party. The better diggers fill their limit, then they keep digging by putting the extras in their friend’s container. Everyone is supposed to dig their own limit, so that’s not allowed.
Another thing people will do is put back small or broken clams. The rule is you have to keep the first 15 clams you dig.
And then there are the people who share a container for all the clams they dig. That’s not allowed either, again because each person must dig their own limit in their own container. But that usually just happens when people are out there for the first time.

Q: Any advice for potential clam diggers?

Sgt Warwick: Know the rules before you go. All the rules are in the Sport Fishing Regulations book. People can avoid a lot of trouble and worry just by taking five minutes to read up on the rules ahead of time. And there are even tips in the regulations on how to dig. So pick up a copy and go through it. And remember to get a license before you start digging.

Q: What about other marine life? What are some common violations?

Sgt Plummer: Under-sized Dungeness crabs. That’s a big one, and it usually happens because people don’t use the proper measuring device. A crab must be at least 5 ¾ inches across the broadest part of the shell (not including the “horns” that go out past the main shell). People think they can measure using a dollar bill, but that doesn’t work. Even though a dollar bill is 5 ¾ inches, they don’t consider that it curls around the shell when they lay it across. So they get an incorrect measurement. Another common problem is people taking female crabs. Only males are legal.

Q: What about when you go out in the OSP boats?

Sgt Plummer: Yes, there is a new rule that applies this year. Previously, commercial crabbers were required to have a buoy on each crab pot left unattended in an area where boats might travel. This allows boaters to avoid crossing over lines and getting tangled up, and also helps prevent crab pots from getting lost or left behind. As of January 1, 2020, all surface buoys used with recreational crab pots or rings must be marked to identify the owner of the gear. Information must include their full name or name of their business, and at least one of the following: permanent address, phone number, ODFW ID number, or vessel ID number. Markings must be visible, legible, and permanent. There still might be lost gear, but at least this way we know who the gear belongs to and how to get it back to them. It also makes people accountable for acting responsibly and not abandoning gear. If an issue arises, we know who to call.
This new rule does not apply to crabbing gear used from piers, jetties, or beaches. They don’t need a buoy if they are hand-lining the gear or tying it off on a railing.

Q: Let’s say an issue arises. What happens then?

Sgt: Plummer:  We want to emphasize education for new rules. But the important thing is for people to read the regulations. 

Let’s talk about those warnings and citations. How do you find the rule-breakers?

Sgt Warwick: One thing is that we have identified hot spots where animals and poachers are likely to meet. We watch those areas. But another thing to remember is that people can call the Turn In Poachers (TIP) Line. Many of our reports come when someone sees something in a parking lot, or on the beach, and they call it in. People don’t like it when they see someone take a limit, put it in a cooler in their vehicle, then go back out and get another one. Or we might get a report from someone who saw a neighbor or another person with a huge number of clams or crabs on their deck, or in the garage. People pay attention to that kind of thing.

Do you have any final words or advice?

Both: Yes, read the regulations and know the laws before you go.  It only takes a few minutes.

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