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Kids and Conservation: Shellfish Farms

MASON COUNTY, US - The two-day event called "Kids With Conservation Knowledge" is sponsored by the Mason Conservation District and hosted by the Bishop family, which has been a careful steward of a special property since 1883.

Brett Bishop, a third-generation resident of the family farm, was quick to point out to the welcome visitors that Skookum Bay was a popular fish camp for the Squaxin Island tribal members for centuries before the white settlers arrived.

"This has always been a special place to enjoy the shellfish, the salmon and the forest," he said, showing the students evidence of a clam and oyster shell disposal area, or midden, indicative of an American Indian summer fishing camp.

While the American Indians used a pointed stick to dig clams, today's commercial diggers, who can make about $30,000 a year if they work fast and hard, use a metal-pronged rake. But then and now, shellfish harvesters work on their hands and knees and are at the mercy of the tides, he explained to the children.

After talking about the history of the farm, Bishop pulled the cover off several touch tanks, exposing the children to the rich variety of marine life plucked from the tideflats a few yards away.

The students visited seven learning stations on the farm, representing shellfish, wildlife habitat, forestry, salmon, pollination, farming and water quality.

Bishop impressed on the children the importance of clean water to his industry.

"If we didn't have clean water, I wouldn't have a farm and a way to feed my children," he said.

Several of the students visiting from the bilingual Evergreen Elementary school have parents working in the South Sound shellfish industry, third-grade teacher Jennifer Johnson said.

At the same time, several students had never seen shellfish up close like this, she said.

The Kids with Conservation Knowledge program started about 15 years ago. At that time, Bishop was a member of the Mason Conservation District board of directors and offered to host the event at the farm.

the Fish Site Editor

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