An annual evaluation of water quality in shellfish harvesting areas found that high bacteria levels will lead to harvest closures for six of Washington’s 105 commercial shellfish areas. An additional 16 areas currently meet water quality standards but are threatened with closure due to periodic bacterial pollution. The Washington State Department of Health uses national water quality standards to classify commercial shellfish harvesting areas to ensure that shellfish harvested in our state waters are safe to eat.
Water quality in Hood Canal near the Duckabush River (Jefferson County), Annas Bay (Mason County), North Bay (Mason County), Rocky Bay (Pierce County), Swinomish (Skagit County), and Port Susan (Snohomish County) does not meet public health standards and shellfish harvesting in these areas will be restricted. State health officials are working with local public health and county partners as well as shellfish growers to implement plans to find and fix pollution problems in these areas.
“We need clean water for safe shellfish harvesting,” said Rick Porso, director of the Office of Environmental Health and Safety. “Protecting and improving water quality is important for public health and our state’s economy.”
Shellfish harvesting areas that currently meet water quality standards but are threatened with restrictions include: Grays Harbor County – Grays Harbor, Pacific Coast; Island County – Penn Cove; Jefferson County – Hood Canal #3; Kitsap County – Dyes Inlet; Mason County – Annas Bay, North Bay; Pacific County – Bay Center, Naselle River; Pierce County – Burley Lagoon, Rocky Bay, Vaughn Bay; Snohomish County – Port Susan, South Skagit Bay; Thurston County – Eld Inlet, Henderson Inlet. In most cases, only part of the shellfish growing area is listed as threatened. A map of the 2017 threatened shellfish growing areas is available on the DOH website.
Local government protects water quality through stormwater management, critical area designations, shoreline protection and other programs and investments. Tribal governments throughout Puget Sound provide leadership, investments and technical expertise towards achieving enhanced water quality. Building on this work over the past six years, the Department of Health has invested about $22 million from the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Estuary Program. The grants support pollution identification and correction projects, and local onsite septic system management programs. These combined efforts have gone a long way to protect and improve water quality in Washington’s shellfish beds.
Current commercial closure reports and classification information can be viewed at the Commercial Shellfish Map. Recreational harvesters can get current sport harvest information on the online Shellfish Safety Map.