State of Our Watersheds: Samish Bay Pollution Impedes Tribal Harvest

Despite the efforts of the Clean Samish Initiative formed in 2009, tribal treaty rights to harvest shellfish in Samish Bay continue to be threatened by poor water quality, as documented in the treaty tribes’ State of Our Watershed Report.

Five different tribes have reserved rights to collect fish and shellfish from the bay.

Conditions have improved somewhat, but high counts of fecal coliform bacteria continue to keep most of Samish Bay’s commercial shellfish areas either conditionally approved (closed during high rain events) or prohibited (closed year-round) to shellfish growing. Only a small section in the north of Samish Bay is approved (open year-round) for shellfish growing and harvest.

In November, the Skagit Valley Herald reported on the challenges to shellfish harvest from pollution. The closures have derailed the Upper Skagit Tribe’s efforts to cultivate shellfish beds in Samish Bay.

From the report:

The Samish Bay shellfish closures are impeding the Tribe’s ability to exercise treaty rights to provide resources to tribal members. Future economic development plans of establishing a shellfish aquaculture business are still uncertain due to lack of tangible success in addressing point and nonpoint pollution in this watershed.

Learn more about the 2016 State of Our Watersheds report.