|An expanse of eelgrass, one of the critical components of|
the Willapa Bay ecosystem being studied.
The study is aimed at pulling together and advancing research to better understand the tidal ecosystems of Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor, with particular attention to interactions among shellfish aquaculture, eelgrass and burrowing ghost shrimp.
|Burrowing Shrimp are a native species that become a problem|
for oyster farmers when their populations grow to excess.
Willapa Bay is home to some of the most productive oyster farms in the country, but in recent years it has been plagued by a booming burrowing shrimp populations that are threatening thousands of acres of oyster beds.
Left unchecked, the burrowing shrimp populations can grow to such high densities that broad swathes of the tidelands are reduced to unstable muck devoid of other sea life. The quagmire created by the shrimp is devastating for bottom culture oyster growers, who have no available tools to prevent their crop of oysters from sinking into the soft mud and suffocating.
|The soft mud created by a burrowing|
shrimp infestation in Willapa Bay.
The Washington Sea Grant study will compile existing information and coordinate new research about the bay’s ecosystem to advance a shared understanding among scientists, resource managers and shellfish farmers of how the ecosystems of Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor function.
With a better understanding of the biology of the shrimp, their interaction with native eel grass, and oyster farms, Sea Grant believes stakeholders will be able to make informed and effective choices to develop solutions.
Sea Grant’s stated goal is “to sustain shellfish aquaculture in the two bays by establishing a collaborative ecosystem-based management framework that will highlight potential solutions to the current challenges and support ongoing participation from tideland managers, owners and regulators.”
|Discussion is critical to the success of the study.|
Although the study is not a public decision-making process, the public was invited and several community members attended and listened to local, regional and global experts and the working group’s dialogue. The group collected public comments submitted on notecards at the event. The public input will be incorporated into future discussions.
Projects currently contributing to this study are funded by a $400,000 appropriation from the Washington State Legislature and a $1.2 million grant from NOAA’s National Sea Grant College Program.
The study will include three more workshops scheduled over the next two years. These workshops will move the study forward and develop the tools needed for an ongoing ecosystem-based management collaboration among stakeholders.