Washington Shellfish Week is upon us and it’s time to celebrate our two-shelled, hinge-having marine invertebrates! Among many great events scheduled, we are looking forward to quality time at Washington’s favorite fjord – Hood Canal for this Saturday’s Hama Hama Oyster Rama. Come say hello, shuck a couple oysters, play oyster trivia, or enjoy a tideflat stroll.
The shellfish industry is a foundation of Western Washington’s economy and an important part of coastal history. Washington leads the nation in farmed shellfish production, and our shellfish are sought by consumers around the world. Shellfish are also a key part of our marine ecosystems, providing habitat and helping filter and cleanse water.2018 is shaping up to be a shellfish sort of year. We recently embarked on the Shellfish Growers Climate Coalition, partnering with growers on the East West Coasts to engage with food-sector businesses, consumers and policy makers in charting a course toward climate action and a low-carbon future. Look for the formal Coalition launch next week at the Billion Oyster Party, and please reach out for more information.
We're also collaborating with NOAA, Washington Sea Grant, and shellfish growers to understand the ecological function of shellfish-growing areas relative to other habitats. Two Conservancy staff recently took to the flats at Taylor Shellfish to install GoPros, which serve as our eyes underwater. RAYS Conservation Fellow Camilo McConnell and Campaign Administrator Vera Hoang reflect on a (wet) day well spent:
With the promise of outdoor field work, beautiful scenery, and a good time, we were gleefully looking forward to our trip. As we stepped out of the car our feet crunched on what looked like sand but was actually accumulated crushed up oyster shell. We arrived at the farm during low tide, which was around 4 pm and perfect time to see the full breadth and depth of the entire
Armed with our field gear and warm gloves we trekked out to the mud flat. Carpeting each section of the farm were clam nets. The nets served to deter predatory animals from eating the precious clam harvest. In sections where the water had ripped the nets from their hooked position, you could see that predators had already taken advantage of the unprotected clams.
The blistering wind and rain made the trek from the parking lot to the reference site difficult, but the excitement kept us going. As we walked deeper into the farm, a ray of sunshine peeked out between the clouds. For a brief moment a rainbow appeared giving us a perfect backdrop.
Installing the first set of GoPro cameras didn't take too long, but the second set of cameras proved to be more difficult. The tide didn't get as low as expected so our NOAA partners did their best to position the cameras while we managed the field gear. By this point, we were all thigh-deep in the very cold bay. #ForScience.
We had a wonderful experience helping our partners from NOAA install the cameras and with the farm manager guiding us along the way. They patiently answered our questions and raised our understanding of aquaculture. Clams and other shellfish are an important natural resource for us in Washington. We are grateful to have seen first-hand how scientists and other natural resource stakeholders plug into the clam aquaculture supply chain.
Do you #digWAshellfish too?
Join a celebration, enjoy the rest of WA Shellfish Week, and herald half-shells all year long!