Monday, April 16, 2018

Nine ways to celebrate Washington Shellfish Week April 15–21

Karla Salp

Washington state leads the nation in the production of many agriculture commodities, such as apples, cherries, and even tulip bulbs. But another commodity in which we are tops is sometimes forgotten: shellfish.

Enjoyed for generations

Shellfish – including oysters, clams and muscles – have long been an important staple of area’s diet as tribal communities harvested and enjoyed shellfish from the Puget Sound and coastal beaches for generations. Today, both tribes and Washington’s shellfish farmers continue the tradition and cultivate shellfish that are enjoyed both locally and around the world; over 20 million pounds of shellfish are produced in Washington’s waters each year.

Boon to the environment

The fact that Washington leads the nation in shellfish production is good news not only for the economy, but for the environment as well.

Shellfish are a key part of our marine ecosystems by helping filter and clean water which in turn promotes healthy growth of seagrass habitats.

Shellfish beds also act like reefs, providing habitat and increasing biodiversity in our waters. Scientists consistently find higher populations of marine life around shellfish beds.

Threats to shellfish

No agricultural endeavor is without its challenges, though, and shellfish are no different.

Less than 4% of historic core populations of native Olympia oysters remain in Puget Sound. Shellfish growers and the Washington State Shellfish Initiative are working to restore historic locations that will create nearshore habitat and natural filtration.

Shellfish also face pressure from invasive species, ocean acidification, harmful algal blooms, habitat destruction and urban runoff. Shellfish growers, researchers and many government agencies are working together to identify and mitigate the threats to our shellfish, ensuring that shellfish will continue to remain a Washington staple for generations to come.

Join the celebration

Here are nine ideas for digging into Washington Shellfish Week:

Whether you are a shellfish lover or just appreciate their environmental benefits, there are plenty of reasons to celebrate shellfish this week.