Sunday, November 29, 2009

Birch Bay

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In an article posted September 25th I created a list of things I want to do. In that list is "crabbing and clamming" and I've been hot in the pursuit of accomplishing my goal. After speaking with several of Timothy's local relatives (who have clammed in the past) I discovered that clamming season is whenever the Fish and Wildlife Department says it is.

So, naturally, I pulled up Fish and Wildlife's website and searched for Clamming. I quickly learned that F&W regularly samples the beaches of Washington State to analyze various animal populations. When it is discovered that a particular shellfish population is over-abundant they will post their findings on the website along with set clamming dates for that beach.

Before I go on with this story I want to say that I was very frustrated with F&W's website. I had a hard time pulling up the information I needed. I can't even re-trace my steps for you. I wish I could because I found a page of .pdf files that contained locations of year-round clamming sites (most of which are only accessible by boat). One of them is Birch Bay.

SO! I found a clamming site. I learned that clamming permits can be obtained by almost any store that sells camping and hunting gear. I read that you must "shuck" your clams on the beach because of an invasion of Japanese clam-eating predators (they look like hermit crabs) which regularly lay their tiny eggs on the clam shells. The Fish and Wildlife Department wants to control the spread of these predators - hence the inconvenient shucking policy. I don't mind helping the Fish and Wildlife Department out, I'm just wary of contaminating my food while following the rules. Fish food poisoning is not fun.

The Saturday following my findings Tim and I drove the two hours to Birch Bay. It was a lovely drive. When we arrived at Birch Bay we were shocked to find an enormous toxic waste facility just outsite the Park. No website or city search made any reference to the presence of this facility. Later on I re-searched the city website and was humored by the fact that all the photographs were strategically taken to disinclude the toxic waste facility. I know because the site is so large that it fills the southern horizon with smoke stacks. It is very obvious that the city's main employer and source of income IS that facility.

By now I'm sure you won't be surprised if I tell you that Tim and I found several signs that said "Warning. Do not eat the shellfish here! Shellfish are toxic and may cause serious illness or death!"

In conclusion I do not suggest that any of you bother with Birch Bay in the future.


  1. Hello GirlWithCurls,

    Sorry you were so misinformed about the Birch Bay area, especially regarding what you refer to as a "toxic waste facility" at Cherry Point near Birch Bay. The facility you refer to is the BP Cherry Point Refinery, and in no way are they any sort of toxic waste facility! In fact - there are hundreds of acres of stream/watershed restoration projects between the refinery and the bay that are owned and resotration paid for by the refinery.

    The type of shellfish closure we are currently experiencing has absolutely nothing to do with the refinery.

    While we appreciate your willingness to visit our excellent clamming beaches, a more thorough check of the curent conditions could have saved you the drive during our current beach closure which like most of the state is for marine biotoxin not pollution.

    Can I recommend that you make a note of this link: which has links and phone numbers to find out current closures and seasonal shellfish information.

    It may also surprise you to learn that Birch Bay is not a city at all, but an unincorprated part of Whatcom County. Most of what we do we do as volunteers. Generations of families have found Birch Bay an excellent place to recreate and share their vacations. We encourage you to give us another chance to make a better impression!

    If we can be of further information please do not hesitate to contact the Birch Bay Chamber of Commerce at 360-371-5004 or by email at

    Thanks for the opportunity to comment!
    Lisa Guthrie
    President, Birch Bay Chamber of Commerce and Birch Bay resident

  2. Lisa,

    Thank you for the brief education and your explanation of that gargantuan facility (BP Cherry Point Refinery)! Its presence had us seriously concerned.

    I'm really happy with the website you referenced and I think Tim and I will return to Birch Bay in the future for a second and more thorough visit.

    Your comment was a huge eye-opener and very much appreciated. Thank you!

    Lacey Anderson