State shellfish industry gets a shot in the arm

The state’s shellfish industry, besieged by pollution problems and neighbors who don’t want new and expanded geoduck farms, received a fresh show of support Friday from top state and federal officials.

Gov. Chris Gregoire, NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco and others gathered at Taylor Shellfish Farms’ headquarters in a pep rally-like atmosphere to announce a new shellfish initiative to restore and expand the state’s shellfish resources.

The initiative calls for a streamlined, faster-paced permitting process for new and expanded shellfish farms, stepped-up restoration projects for two native shellfish populations – the Olympia oyster and pinto abalone – and new water-quality projects in shellfish-growing areas of Puget Sound.

Details of the initiative include:

  • The governor will appoint a blue-ribbon panel of scientists and others to create a plan for monitoring and combatting ocean acidification. Rising ocean acidity associated with greenhouse gases can lead to increased mortality in shellfish.
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will direct $4.5 million to local governments and health districts to reduce bacterial contamination from failing septic systems, farm animals, pets and boats. Thurston and Pierce are among the five counties offered funding.
  • Helping to recover Olympia oysters by restoring 19 natural oyster beds in Puget Sound by 2022.
  • Increasing public access to shellfish on public tidelands for recreational and tribal harvest through new signs, maps and land acquisition.
John Dodge, The Olympian, 10 December 2011. Full article.

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