Squaxin Tribe Boosts Recreational Shellfish Harvest

SHELTON (May 22, 2006) –– The Squaxin Island Tribe is boosting recreational oyster harvest by seeding several South Sound beaches. Over the past three years the tribe has planted about 300,000 juvenile oysters for exclusive recreational harvest at public beaches in Mason, Pierce and Thurston counties.

The project is funded by tribal harvest of oysters on a remote stretch of beach on Oakland Bay near Shelton. “Typically, tribal and non-tribal shellfish harvesters share the harvest of oysters on a beach, but because of its remote location, few recreational harvesters made it out there,” said Eric Sparkman, shellfish biologist for the tribe. “That is why the tribe is harvesting both shares on the Oakland Bay tideland and then replacing the non-Indian share by enhancing shellfish beds that are more accessible to recreational harvesters.”

“We’re replacing those oysters the tribe is harvesting in Oakland Bay with oysters recreational harvesters can easily get to,” said Sparkman. The three public beaches enhanced by the tribe are Frye Cove county park on Eld Inlet, the North Bay tidelands in Mason County and Kopachuck State Park near Gig Harbor. The project is part of a shellfish management agreement between the tribal and state co-managers.

“Over 5,000 people visit Kopachuck State Park annually, making it the second most popular public shellfishing beach in southern Puget Sound,” said Alex Bradbury, shellfish biologist with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. “Frye Cove gets almost 1,500 sport harvesters annually, and they took over 14,000 oysters last year. This enhancement by the tribe will satisfy that huge sport demand for oysters at the most accessible public beaches.”

When it comes to shellfish harvest, tribal members aren’t bothered by the relative remoteness of a tideland. ““We’’re more worried about the health of a particular shellfish population, whether it can sustain harvest, than how easy or difficult it is to access,”” said Andy Whitener, natural resources director for the tribe.

By reducing oyster populations in Oakland Bay, the tribe is also creating more space for clams to grow. “Oakland Bay is a better place for clams than for oysters, because the habitat is more suited for clams,” said Sparkman. “The clams thrive once they are alone on the Oakland Bay tideland.”

““We’’ve been harvesting shellfish here for centuries,”” said Whitener. “As co-managers we’re interested in continuing that tradition so that all of us, tribal and recreational harvesters, can have access to strong shellfish populations.”


For more information, contact: Eric Sparkman, shellfish biologist, Squaxin Island Tribe, (360) 432-3811. Emmett O’Connell, information officer, NWIFC, (360) 528-4304, [email protected].

Photos Available: Photos of tribal oyster distribution available, .jpg format, high quality. Contact Emmett O’Connell.