Shellfish Harvest Areas Remain Threatened

Three shellfish harvesting areas in Mason County remain threatened for restrictions due to bacterial pollution. According to the Washington State Department of Health’s annual water quality evaluation, Annas Bay, Oakland Bay, and Pickering Passage are among the threatened areas.

The Washington State Department of Health’s annual water quality evaluation for commercial shellfish harvest areas will result in reopening over 300 acres of growing area. This includes portions of the Colvos Passage (King and Kitsap Counties), Jamestown (Clallam County), Port Orchard Passage (Kitsap County) and Port Madison (Kitsap County) growing areas and two public beaches. Improved water quality in these areas is the result of pollution identification and correction activities, on-site septic system management, and waste water treatment plant improvements.

Unfortunately, the annual water quality evaluation will also result in harvest restrictions in two areas and 12 additional areas that could see classification downgrades. State health officials are working with county partners, shellfish growers and tribal governments to implement the required classification changes and finding and fixing pollution problems in these areas.

Portions of Chico Bay in Dyes Inlet (Kitsap County) and Minter Bay in Henderson Bay (Pierce County) do not meet public health standards and shellfish harvesting will be restricted. The restrictions will be in place by July. Shellfish harvest areas currently meeting water quality standards, but threatened with restrictions due to bacterial pollution include:

Clallam County – Makah Bay; Grays Harbor County – Grays Harbor, Pacific Coast; Jefferson County – Kalaloch; Mason County – Annas Bay, Oakland Bay, Pickering Passage; Pierce County – Henderson Bay; Snohomish County – Port Susan, Skagit Bay South; and Whatcom County – Drayton Harbor, Portage Bay.

Since 2011, DOH has invested over $35 million in grants around Puget Sound funded by the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) National Estuary Program to help improve water quality. These grants support pollution identification and correction projects, on-site septic system management programs, research, and shellfish protection districts.

These efforts combined with other local and state funds have gone a long way to protect and improve water quality around Washington’s shellfish beds.

People can do their part by maintaining their septic systems, picking up pet waste, using pump out stations for boats and recreational vehicles, and managing animal waste from large and small farms.

DOH is responsible for the safety of commercially harvested shellfish in the state and uses national standards to classify all 113 commercial harvest areas. Recreational harvesters can get up-to-date information on the Shellfish Safety Map.