Clam Surveys

Clam Surveys

Why Survey Clams?

In many Whatcom County shoreline areas, native clams may serve as indicator species and help us understand the health of the shellfish resource, water quality impacts, and harvesting impacts. The goals of this project are to gain a greater understanding of the populations of native and introduced shellfish in Whatcom County and to involve members of the community in protecting this resource. The majority of the accessible shorelines of Whatcom County has been surveyed for clams using trained community volunteers.

Over 200 community volunteers have participated in countywide clam surveys with the Whatcom MRC, helping us gain a better understanding of the health of the shellfish resource. The MRC and project partners have conducted surveys since 2004.

Survey Specifics

The clam surveys are conducted along multiple transects, lines running from the shoreline to the water’s edge at low tide. Volunteers dig sample holes every 40 or 100 feet along each transect. The substrate (mud, sand, gravel, and cobble) is sorted to find the clams living in each hole. The clams are sorted by type and size, counted, and then returned to the survey hole. A field data sheet is used to record substrate, vegetation, clams, and other observations.


The methods for this survey are based upon Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) protocols described in "Procedures to determine intertidal populations of Protothaca staminea, Tapes philippinarum, and Crassostrea gigas in Hood Canal and Puget Sound, Washington (1996)". Some adaptations are made to accommodate the large survey size, to return the clams to the sample holes, and to use community volunteers. Minor adaptations are also made between surveys to improve our efficiency and accuracy in the field and to adjust to the size of the survey areas.

Chuckanut Bay

The Whatcom County MRC has partnered with the Pacific Shellfish Institute Garden of the Salish Sea Curriculum to conduct a clam surveys in North Chuckanut Bay. These clam surveys provided a unique opportunity to educate third grade students from Wade King Elementary school, students from Bellingham Technical College (BTC), and the local community about the value of protecting shellfish, marine resources, and marine water quality.

The MRC conducted clam surveys at Mud Bay during two separate years (2004 and 2008) and recognized the area as having a great diversity and densities of clams. The more recent clam surveys provide important data to augment baseline information about the types, numbers, and sizes of clams found in Mud Bay, as well as for continuing to assess the health of shellfish in the Chuckanut Bay area. This information is shared with the community, local, state and tribal agencies and will be used by the MRC to work with the community to provide more information to residents and visitors about how to protect this valuable resource.

Doug training some volunteers

Clam Survey Results

Clam Surveys