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Washington Launches Shellfish Initiative

Charlotte Johnson
12 December 2011, at 12:00am

US - On December 9, NOAA Administrator Dr Jane Lubchenco and Washington State Governor Chris Gregoire unveiled the Washington Shellfish Initiative, a new agreement among federal and state agencies, tribes, the shellfish industry, and the restoration community to restore and expand Washingtons shellfish resources to promote shellfish aquaculture and create family-wage jobs.

NOAA announced a $200,000 grant to help the state restore the native Olympia oyster. The state departments of Health and Ecology also will award $1 million to support programmes that identify, inspect, and fix failing septic systems to keep pollution out of sensitive habitat areas.

“Few people realise how important the shellfish industry is to Washington state, and the potential for job growth,” Governor Gregoire said. “This industry already brings in tens of millions of dollars to our state every year – and demand for Washington’s prized shellfish has long exceeded supply both nationally and globally. We have a unique opportunity to create good, living-wage jobs – but it will require clean water and partnership to grow this critical industry.”

Washington’s aquaculture industry – farmed clams, mussels and oysters – is worth more than $107 million a year. The industry employs more than 3,200 people and pumps more than $270 million annually into the state economy.

The initiative calls for:

  • Expanding, promoting and improving shellfish aquaculture in Washington;
  • Increasing opportunities for and improving access to public tidelands for recreational shellfish harvesting;
  • Restoring native shellfish habitat and populations such as the Olympia oyster and pinto abalone; and
  • Improving and protecting water quality to help ensure healthy and safe shellfish for consumers.

“The Washington Shellfish Initiative is the first regional implementation of a national effort to increase the commercial production of shellfish and restore native shellfish habitats and populations,” said Dr Lubchenco.

“NOAA’s contribution today supports an ambitious partnership to rebuild native Olympia oysters and to regain the important ecological, cultural, and economic benefits from a viable, sustainable shellfish industry in the Pacific Northwest.”

David Steele, President of the Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association said: “We applaud the State and National Shellfish Initiatives and the promotion of our sustainable industry. Our hope is that greater permit certainty for shellfish growers under the Initiatives will allow us to flourish and continue creating jobs and helping restore the health of the state’s coastal waters and Puget Sound.”