Shellfish farming is the very essence of sustainability. The shellfish themselves sustain the habitat in which they grow; and shellfish farms sustain the coastal communities in which they operate by providing thousands of jobs and contributing more than $110 million a year to the West Coast economy.
In addition, shellfish growers work hard to sustain the environment in which they work because their livelihood and future depends on it.
The Pacific Coast — and Washington State in particular — is the largest producer of farmed shellfish in the nation. Even though shellfish have been a staple food source in this region for thousands of years and farmed commercially since the 1850′s, our region boasts the highest percentage of fully approved certified tidelands in the nation. This classification is provided by the Washington State Department of Health based on regular water quality testing. This is a testament to the environmental stewardship of shellfish growers.
For example, in addition to working for water quality protections, farmers protect the tidal habitat by limiting the density of shellfish they grow at any one time. It’s a matter of enlightened self interest, really. If the shellfish are overcrowded, it will take them too long to reach market size, and overcrowding could jeopardize the tidal habitat they use to grow their shellfish. Simply put, it’s to the grower’s benefit to take a balanced, careful, and thoughtful approach to shellfish farming.
The families who operate today’s shellfish farms are beneficiaries of a legacy of environmental stewardship passed on to them by previous generations of growers. The vibrant, healthy state of our shellfish community is proof that today’s growers are equally committed to passing that legacy on to the next generation.