Wildlife Officers Protect Pismo Clams from Poachers

Since the beginning of the year, CDFW wildlife officers have seized more than 12,000 undersized Pismo clams and issued 116 citations to suspected poachers in San Luis Obispo County for unlawfully harvesting Pismo clams. In Santa Cruz County, wildlife officers have issued 60 citations and seized more than 5,000 undersized Pismo clams. Many of the citations involved extreme overlimits and about 90 percent of issued citations were for harvesting clams without a fishing license. When possible, wildlife officers will attempt to document where the undersized clams were taken and return those clams to the wild.

In past decades, Pismo clams were an important recreational sport fishery in California. A steep decline in the statewide Pismo clam population resulted in a dramatically reduced fishery and minimal recreational harvest. Pismo clams may still be harvested in California, in compliance with season, bag limits and size restrictions.

Despite a significant resurgence in the Pismo clam population in much of its historic habitat, most Pismo clams are still too small to legally harvest. Pismo clams are slow-growing animals and the majority are still in the growth stage. Marine biologists expect it will be at least another five to 10 years before any legal-size clams are present on most beaches.

“The central coast is seeing a resurgence of Pismo clam populations and our wildlife officers will continue to protect them from poachers,” said David Bess, CDFW Deputy Director and Chief of the Law Enforcement Division. “The vast majority of these clams are still undersized, and we need to give them an opportunity to become a robust recreational fishery for the future.”

Recreational clam harvesters with a valid fishing license may take the maximum bag limit of 10 Pismo clams per day, as long as they meet the minimum size of 5 inches north of the San Luis Obispo/Monterey county line and 4.5 inches south of the county line. Sub-legal sized clams must be immediately reburied. In Monterey and Santa Cruz counties, the season for Pismo clams starts Sept. 1 and ends April 30. In all other counties, the season is open year-round. The current regulations are in place to allow for limited recreational take but prevent a depletion of the Pismo clam resource.

If a member of the public witnesses a poaching, wildlife trafficking or pollution incident, or has information about such a violation, immediately dial the toll free CalTIP number, (888) 334-2258, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to CDFW using tip411. Anyone with a cell phone may send an anonymous tip to CDFW by texting “CALTIP”, followed by a space and the message, to 847411 (tip411).

Tips can also be reported through the free CalTIP smartphone app, which operates similarly to tip411 by creating an anonymous two-way conversation with wildlife officers. The CalTIP app can be downloaded via the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.