Shellfish Growers Bring Pearls of Wisdom to Combatting Climate Change

By Molly Bogeberg, Marine Conservation Coordinator

With the sun shining, I took off from Seattle to Hood Canal. Neon spring greens lined Highway 101, the skies were blue and the fjord waters glistened. In the distance, beyond towering firs and waterfalls, The Brothers’ twin peaks were still dusted with snow. It was only 10:30 a.m., and I already had the feeling that it was about to be a one of those magical Washington days. 

 Oyster Rama attendees harvest shellfish on the tideflats of Hood Canal. 

Oyster Rama attendees harvest shellfish on the tideflats of Hood Canal. 

I pulled up to Hama Hama Company’s oyster farm, and the shore was bustling. Instead of heading out on the tideflats for a day of typical farm work, staff were busy setting up tables and hauling bags of clanking shellfish for the legendary Hama Hama Oyster Rama!

 Serious competition at the shuck-a-thon!

Serious competition at the shuck-a-thon!

Attendees trickled onto the farm with big smiles and empty bellies, ready to pay homage to a seafood star of the Washington intertidal zone: the oyster. Raw, grilled, fried — you could slurp an oyster pretty much any way you could imagine. Not long after noon, the farm was near capacity. Oyster lovers young and older explored the tideflats to pick their own oysters and clams, visited educational and art booths, participated in shucking competitions and answered shellfish trivia questions. 

Bridging aquaculture and conservation

"Climate change threatens not only shellfish growers and the jobs and the communities they support, but the food that sustains all of us. This coalition is an opportunity to inform both policymakers and the public about how the lack of climate action in the United States is threatening our way of life.” 
- Mike Stevens, Washington State Director for The Nature Conservancy. 

As a Marine Conservation Coordinator at The Nature Conservancy, I trekked to Hood Canal not only to enjoy the oyster feast but also to share about our aquaculture work. TNC sees shellfish aquaculture as an important natural resource with the ability to provide protein to a growing population. As the shellfish industry grows, we see the need for strong partnerships between industry, managers and conservation groups to face the challenges of a changing environment and to ensure industry sustainability.

To meet these challenges head-on, shellfish growers from across the nation are working with TNC to form a Shellfish Growers Climate Coalition (SGCC) to engage with food-sector businesses, consumers, and policy makers to raise awareness about the impacts of climate change on shellfish growers, and the need for climate action. A group of Washington shellfish growers is also partnering with TNC, NOAA, and Sea Grant to study the ecological role of shellfish aquaculture relative to natural habitats nearby.  

Tour the tideflats with our scientists

The Hama Hama Company’s passion for their land and waters is deep as a fifth-generation farm that has relied on its surrounding natural resources for decades. They’ve worked to understand and respect the connection between land, air, and sea and quality shellfish. Recognizing their role as a business directly impacted by climate change, the Hama Hama Company and Taylor Shellfish stepped up to be the founding Washington members of the SGCC .

The Hama Hama Oyster Rama is a celebration of shellfish — from their role on the dinner table to their role in the environment. The continued partnership between industry, managers, and conservation groups will help increase the sustainability of the industry and keep shellfish as a mainstay of Washington state’s culture for years to come.