Crime

1,400 pounds of clams destroyed after illegal Key Peninsula harvest

About 1,000 pounds of clams illegally harvested in Lakebay on the Key Peninsula earlier this month are seen in this June 2 picture.
About 1,000 pounds of clams illegally harvested in Lakebay on the Key Peninsula earlier this month are seen in this June 2 picture. Courtesy

State Department of Fish & Wildlife police destroyed 1,400 pounds of clams that had been illegally harvested earlier this month in the Lakebay area of the Key Peninsula, officials said.

A resident tipped off Fish & Wildlife officials June 2 to an illegal harvest along Carr Inlet, Sgt. Ken Balasz said. The area is closed to commercial harvesting.

An officer arrived to find two men with 21 commercial-sized bags of clams on the beach and harvesting more, Balasz said. The men had a commercial license, but no certifications for the beach they were on or tags for the clams they were harvesting.

The officer determined a Shelton-based company had hired the two men to harvest the clams, Balasz said, but the owner initially denied involvement and said the men were supposed to be on a beach near Belfair.

The officer then destroyed the 1,000 pounds of clams the men had harvested.

The next day, two officers went to the Shelton company's office, where it came to light that the business owner and the Lakebay property owner had made a deal for the shellfish to be clandestinely harvested.

The officers found in could storage 400 pounds more of untagged clams that had been harvested June 1.

Commercial shellfish harvesting is highly regulated because of the risk of paralytic shellfish poisoning, Balasz said.

"It's something that we take very seriously," he said Tuesday. "It's one of our top priorities in marine areas."

Fish & Wildlife officers forwarded their reports to Pierce County prosecutors for possible criminal charges.

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