Growing Sustainable Shellfish: Understanding the Ecological Role of Shellfish Aquaculture Using Emerging Technology

Researchers collaborate with shellfish growers as citizen scientists to study the functional role of shellfish aquaculture habitat as compared to natural habitat.

Project Lead

Molly Bogeberg, The Nature Conservancy

Co-Project Leads

Kara Cardinal, The Nature Conservancy

Beth Sanderson, NOAA Northwest Fisheries Science Center


Shellfish aquaculture has the potential to meet or exceed the highest standards of sustainability for food production, but two major barriers constrain expansion: public perception and permitting. Researchers from the Nature Conservancy, UW and NOAA partner with shellfish growers to study the functional role of shellfish habitat as compared to natural habitat by conducting applied, on-the-ground research and outreach to better document the habitat value and ecosystem functions provided by shellfish aquaculture. They are doing this by collaborating with shellfish growers to deploy video cameras (i.e., GoPros) underwater. They also use public outreach and storytelling to bring this data to light to address barriers to sustainable aquaculture growth around public perception and the permitting process.

Research Updates

Results Thus Far

Preliminary results show that the composition of nearshore marine communities varies in the presence of aquaculture relative to reference areas, and that these relationships vary regionally between Hood Canal, North Sound and South Sound. Towards the objective of addressing public perception around aquaculture expansion, the researchers engaged in outreach that included publishing blog posts, a fact sheet and a short film.

Check out Washington Sea Grant Marine Policy Fellow Katrina Radach’s article How Does Shellfish Aquaculture Interact with Puget Sound’s Marine Life?

Sustainable Shellfish Aquaculture in Washington

Underwater Highlights captured by GoPro

The Power of Partnership, featuring Teri King