West Coast shellfish aquaculture assessment 

West Coast Shellfish Aquaculture–Economic Impacts, Barriers to Entry, and Opportunities for Expanded Production

Supported by the NOAA Sea Grant Aquaculture Research Program, researchers assembled data from coastal communities and provided the most comprehensive economic picture yet of West Coast shellfish aquaculture.

Principal Investigator

Daniel Cheney, Pacific Shellfish Institute

Co-Principal Investigators

Peter Becker, Olympic Aquafarms, Sequim, WA

Robert Emanuel, Oregon State University, Oregon Sea Grant

Ted Kuiper, Retired (Pres.’86-‘08, Kuiper Mariculture Inc.)

Katharine Wellman, Northern Economics, Olympia, WA



With national strategic initiative funding, Washington Sea Grant-supported researchers surveyed shellfish growers and interviewed key informants in three Pacific states on expenses, revenues, and five categories of entry barriers. They used this data to develop a comprehensive input–output analysis of the industry that quantified the economic impacts of West Coast shellfish aquaculture and documented entry barriers and expansion opportunities.

Research Updates


From Ventura County, California, to Grays Harbor, Washington, shellfish harvesting is a vital part of the region’s culture and commerce. Coastal communities seeking to develop productive, sustainable economies see new opportunities in shellfish cultivation. At the same time, local, state, and national agencies must accommodate or contend with this expanding industry in their shoreline management and marine spatial plans. All parties need better information about its economic impacts, opportunities for expansion, and barriers to entry.


The data assembled provide the most comprehensive economic picture yet of West Coast shellfish aquaculture. In Washington the industry generated about 60 percent more jobs per million dollars spent than animal husbandry and 170 percent more than boatbuilding and forestry. Only 62 percent of the 30,000 acres permitted for nontribal shellfish aquaculture are in active production, suggesting significant expansion opportunities remain. For small growers, the biggest challenges were economic and production conditions, such as access to capital; for midsized growers, social conditions, such as use conflicts and litigation costs; and for large growers, regulation and permitting delays.


West Coast shellfish aquaculture – economic impacts, barriers to entry and opportunities for expanded production (March 2011) Pacific Shellfish Institute.

Northern Economics, Inc. (2013) The economic impact of shellfish aquaculture in Washington, Oregon and California. Prepared for the Pacific Shellfish Institute, Olympia, WA, 48 p.

Annual Reports

2012 Progress Report