Aquaculture

We also offer local activities on shellfish. Learn more in Ocean Learning.

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Bivalves for Clean Water

Teri King, Marine Water Quality Specialist

The Bivalves for Clean Water program educates marine shoreline owners and recreational shellfish harvesters about coastal pollution, ecosystem health, water quality and resource management issues challenging Puget Sound and Hood Canal. This multifaceted approach lets participants choose activities that fit their individual learning styles and interests.

Activities offered include workshops, field trips, shellfish-enhancement activities, citizen monitoring, beach walks and assessments, site visits, publications and one-on-one technical assistance.

WSG recruits and trains volunteers to identify and eliminate pollution sources in their watersheds, enhance recreational shellfish populations and conduct safe recreational harvest trips.

 


Kelp Aquaculture

Meg Chadsey, Ocean Acidification Specialist

Interest in macroalgae aquaculture is growing. Kelp and other seaweeds can be grown for food, animal feed, organic fertilizer, biofuels and other sustainable products. In Washington State, kelp aquaculture grew out of ocean acidification (OA) research. Because macroalgae absorbs nutrients and carbon dioxide as it grows, co-cultivation of macroalgae alongside farmed marine species can help recycle waste, and may buffer vulnerable organisms from the corrosive effects of OA.

WSG works with partners to investigate the impact that kelp aquaculture can have on OA and the potential commercial markets for farmed kelp, including using kelp as food and as fertilizer

WSG staff can also help answer questions about kelp and seaweed aquaculture and the educational and funding resources that are currently available.

Shellfish Conferences

Teri King, Marine Water Quality Specialist

Each year, WSG participates in and organizes conferences and training workshops on aquaculture and related issues and shares research findings with decision makers, producers and resource managers.

WSG contributes to the Washington State Shellfish Initiative, the annual Shellfish Growers Conference, the Pacific Rim Shellfish Sanitation Conference, and one-time events such as symposia on aquaculture and the environment.

State of the Oyster Study: Testing Shellfish for Health and Safety

Teri King, Marine Water Quality Specialist


Shellfish need clean water to thrive. Pollutants can destroy their beds, and bacteria taken up by shellfish can sicken people who eat them. WSG’s State of the Oyster Study is a citizen science monitoring program that trains waterfront property owners to test the safety of their shellfish before consumption. Four times a year, residents gather clams and oysters at low tide and bring them to WSG to be tested for Vibrio parahaemolyticus and bacterial indicators of fecal contamination. WSG then helps participants interpret the test results and, if necessary, works closely with them to identify and remedy sources of contamination.

The WSG Well Education and Testing program (WET)

WET is offered in tandem with the State of the Oyster Study. Testing your well water is the best way to identify possible contamination. The WSG WET provides homeowners with a local, inexpensive way to test well water.

 


Willapa Bay Oysters – A Documentary

Teri King, Marine Water Quality Specialist

This video documentary about Willapa Bay by Washington native Keith A. Cox captures the oystering livelihood and lifestyle that endure on Willapa Bay, southwest Washington, and define its spirit and tradition.
WSG supported the project and staff are working with the producer on hosting future film showings and an interactive display to accompany the film.


WSG’s Meg Chadsey on the Impacts of Ocean Acidification to Seafood Security in Puget Sound

August 8, 2019

Last month WSG’s Meg Chadsey spoke to the Van Alen Climate Council — a group of built environment designers — about ocean acidification’s impacts to local seafood 

Meg Chadsey, WSG Ocean Acidification Specialist. Photo by Marina Piedade, Van Alen

With bustling waterfronts, famous seafood markets, a robust culinary scene, and an estuary rich with marine life, the Puget Sound region seems to be the picture of seafood security. But look closer at the web of people, the sea, and the climate, and the fragility and vulnerability of this system comes to light.

In mid-July, WSG’s Meg Chadsey introduced a room full of interdisciplinary thinkers to the sobering realities of ocean acidification. Called the “Climate Council,” the group of built environment professionals organized by the Van Alen Institute had assembled for the gathering in Seattle to explore the seafood supply chain from ocean to table. Through site visits and cross-discipline conversation, the group came to understand the intimate relationship between food security and climate change in the Puget Sound.

Meg Chadsey speaks to the Van Alen Climate Council about the impacts of ocean acidification to Puget Sound marine life. Photo by Marina Piedade, Van Alen

Chadsey explained that the Puget Sound region’s booming shellfish industry raised alarm in the early 2000’s when larval oysters in shellfish hatcheries were failing to survive. As it turned out, what Chadsey called a “triple whammy” of ocean conditions made the region “Ground Zero” for ocean acidification at the time: an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, human pressures on a sensitive estuarine environment, and upwelling of naturally carbon dioxide-rich deep water to the surface. Together, these conditions sometimes made the waters of Puget Sound too corrosive for the vulnerable larval oysters; their delicate calcium carbonate shells were simply dissolving in the acidified seawater. 

And it wasn’t just the oysters that were losing out. Other marine life, such as pteropods (small but abundant marine snails that Chadsey equates to the “PowerBars of the sea”) are also struggling to maintain their delicate shells. Pteropods are an important source of food for many marine species (for example, they account for about 30 percent of the diet of juvenile pink salmon). if ocean acidification causes pteropod numbers to decline, the effects could ripple throughout the food web. 

However, Chadsey suggests there are reasons to be optimistic about our capacity to mitigate the problem. She is part of a team investigating the potential of kelp aquaculture to improve water quality, create critical marine habitat and grow food, all while taking carbon dioxide out of the acidified waters of the Puget Sound. Other newly-developed tools could also help mitigate OA’s impacts. For example, Parker MacCready of UW Oceanography demonstrated the LiveOcean model, a tool he likened to “a weather forecast for the ocean,” that is helping fishermen and growers understand and adapt to ocean conditions that can threaten the health of shellfish.

Taylor Shellfish hatchery in Quilcene, WA. Photo by Marina Piedade, Van Alen

Innovations like these may help those whose livelihoods depend on Puget Sound shellfish continue to be supported by these species, even in the face of changing ocean conditions. On Hood Canal, the Council saw and heard the stories of OA impacts to the region during visits to the Taylor Shellfish hatchery, Hama Hama Oyster Company, and the Long Live the Kings facility. 

Long Live the Kings finfish hatchery in Hoodsport, WA. Photo by Marina Piedade, Van Alen

After seeing the sophistication of the oyster hatcheries, one Council member was heartened. “I started out on Tuesday thinking that there were going to be no more oysters,” he reflected. “And then you go to this thing and it’s almost like it’s Frankenstein’s lab! You can imagine them actually cutting the cord with the natural world entirely and doing this in a giant chemistry set.” Cutting that cord felt unsettling to other members, who worried about “becom[ing] so reliant on these man-made systems that we forget about the [natural] habitat.” But as with the kelp investigation, it may be possible to work within the natural seascape to mitigate OA impacts, and thus keep the cord intact.  

The story of seafood in the Puget Sound region is one fraught with climate vulnerabilities, but it is also one of collaborative efforts by passionate and innovative people determined to see the industry thrive far into the future. It remains to be seen where designers such as those who are part of the Van Alen Climate Council can intervene to help ensure that outcome, but that the conversation now involves such a diversity of disciplines is surely a source of hope in itself.