Millions of Mussels Keep Puget Sound Clean

Story by Katrina Radach, Washington Sea Grant Marine Policy Fellow, and photos by Courtney Baxter, Conservation Coordinator for Puget Sound

Do you think the Pacific Northwest means dreary cold rain? YES! And it also means delicious fresh seafood!

Some of our team members got up close and personal with the seafood at a tour of Penn Cove Shellfish Farm this fall.

Nature Conservancy staff visited Penn Cove Shellfish Farm

Besides bringing deliciousness, mussels, oysters and clams have a big impact on the environment. At Penn Cove, millions of mussels filter billions of gallons of seawater in this Coupeville farm. An adult mussel filters about 15 gallons of water a day, and this little farm has between 900-2500 lines of mussels on each of their many mussel rafts (that’s a lot of mussels AND filtered water!)

Tim Jones pulls up a string of mussels at Penn Cove Shellfish Farm.

Penn Cove raises these mussels from their seeds to harvestable size, which takes about 12-14 months. At any given time that you visit, you’ll find different sizes and ages of mussels, depending on which mussel raft you visit.

Speaking of mussel rafts, we saw several seals attempting to sleep/sunbathe/look incredibly adorable on each mussel raft.

There was even a raft that looked on the verge of sinking due to all the seals laying on top of it. But these seals are no threat to mussel farming. Rather, ducks and birds are the largest pests, so Penn  Cove installed nets around their rafts to prevent these waterfowl from pecking away at the harvest.

Perhaps one of the most interesting and admirable parts of this farm is that they only do day-of orders. This means that within 24 hours they receive orders, harvest the ordered amount of shellfish and distribute the products across the US. This ensures that none of their shellfish goes to waste and businesses have their needs met.

Penn Cove provided us with a unique opportunity to dig a little deeper about the connection between aquaculture, business and the environment. Thank you to Penn Cove for a great opportunity to experience local aquaculture! There is no better way to learn than getting involved with our communities.

Learn More About Our Aquaculture Work