Just in time for WA Shellfish Week, ‘No Discharge Zone’ is cause for celebration

By Julia Luna, Communications Specialist

From food to festivals to beach-walks, Washington Shellfish Week is celebrating all things shellfish. The Pacific Shellfish Growers Association is kicking off Washington Shellfish Week by compiling a variety of events. Festivities will start April 15 and go through April 21.

Ferry on Puget Sound. Photo credit: Tiffany Von Arnim.

Puget Sound is now off limits to vessel sewage discharge
Year after year, there are so many reasons to celebrate Washington Shellfish Week, and one of them came down the pipe very recently. On April 9, Washington State Department of Ecology’s Director, Maia Bellon, signed into law the Puget Sound No Discharge Zone. Effective May 10, this new rule bans the discharge of sewage within Puget Sound, benefiting public health, water quality, and shellfish. The Puget Sound Partnership uses the Vital Signs to measure, among other things, the amount of harvestable shellfish beds in Puget Sound. By making vessel sewage discharge in Puget Sound off limits, the new rule could benefit shellfish harvesting conditions. Recovering shellfish beds is also one of the Partnership’s three Strategic Initiatives. Click here to learn more about Strategic Initiatives.

New rule is good for Washington’s economy
The No Discharge Zone rule is also good news for all of Washington State. The shellfish industry is an integral part to our state’s economy, ecology, and cultural identity. Washington is the nation’s leading producer of clams, mussels, and oysters — providing employment for nearly 3,000 people and generating over $61 million in wages and revenue. On top of that, many Washingtonians enjoy recreational shellfish harvesting every year, which is valued at more than $40 million.

With much of our livelihood in Puget Sound dependent on a vibrant shellfish harvesting industry, there are several challenges that Puget Sound faces. One of these challenges is septic and sewage wastes in shellfish harvesting areas. Of the 225,000 acres of Puget Sound’s commercial shellfish growing areas, 16 percent are closed due to water pollution caused by fecal bacteria.

Shellfish recovery in Drayton Harbor
Drayton Harbor faced this challenge head on in 1995. With much of Drayton Harbor classified as prohibited for shellfish harvesting, due to human waste and animal waste, the community came together to find solutions. After a decade of hard work, 810 acres of shellfish beds were reclassified as approved for shellfish harvesting. Success can happen when decision makers and communities work together. Click here to read the full story in our 2017 State of the Sound report.