Low tides bring opportunity

Kelly Barker looks for crab during an extreme low tide on Elsea Bay. (Photo by Bret yager)

The Central Coast is in the midst of a three-day tide cycle that is among the lowest of 2019. With the sea surface retreating far below normal levels, a heyday is at hand for clammers and those who wish to poke about among old shipwrecks and natural formations that are usually underwater, such as the wrecked boiler from a steamship located in Boiler Bay. Look for wide swathes of exposed tide flats, the ribs of a wrecked ship and decayed boats possibly seen for the first time, and treasures limited only by imagination.

With a mellow surf and sunny weather at hand, there couldn’t be a better time to go tide pooling and engage in citizen science.

These extreme low tides run -1.74 feet at 7:50 a.m. on June 4, -1.88 feet at 8:35 a.m. on June 5 and finally -1.81 feet at 9:21 a.m. on June 6. The minus tides occur again just in time for Independence Day, July 3-5 and again August 1-2.

Newport artist Kelly Barker got a jump on the -1.42 tide Monday morning in Alsea Bay, where his lone figure could be seen stalking the last couple of feet of water remaining in the bottom of the bay. Barker was equipped with a light rake and was on the hunt for Dungeness crab.

“Only females today,” he reported. “We limited out last fall, so we came back and tried to remember what they look like when they bury their little selves up. It’s just a little hump, a small disturbance in the sand.”

Raking crab is a little-known art that can be practiced in places like Alsea Bay during very low tides.

For those whose bag is conservation rather than harvest, the Oregon Coast Aquarium is putting out the word that it needs citizen scientists to document ecosystem diversity at five marine reserves during these revealing tidal fluctuations. The closest three reserves needing study are Cascade Head, Otter Rock and Cape Perpetua.

“In order to understand the effects of the reserves, key information is needed on the original species compositions of each area to establish a baseline, i.e. what animal and plant species are there and how abundant are they?” said Sally Compton, an aquarium spokesperson. “The Bioblitzes, along with dive surveys and SMURFing (Standard Monitoring Unites for the Recruitment of Fishes), serve as methods for collecting this key information.”

For more information on these Bioblitzes and a complete list of dates, locations and times, visit www.aquarium.org/bioblitz

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