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
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:
- Participate in shellfish celebrations and activities.
- Visit a restaurant and order a shellfish appetizer or entrée.
- Get some Washington-grown shellfish and enjoy a favorite or new shellfish recipe and post a picture on social media with the hashtag #DigWAshellfish
- Warm up with a bowl of clam chowder.
- Participate in a beach cleanup.
- Evaluate your use of fertilizers and pesticides and do not over apply – follow the label!
- Get a shellfish license and go digging for razor clams.
- Watch this episode about shellfish from Washington Grown.
- Learn more about the Governor’s Shellfish Initiative.
Whether you are a shellfish lover or just appreciate their environmental benefits, there are plenty of reasons to celebrate shellfish this week.