As a way to better connect with waterfront landowners, the Suquamish Tribe has been hosting a successful shellfish social hour the past two years.

At a restaurant in Silverdale each winter, the tribe invites property owners on Dyes Inlet to talk with tribal staff about its work, including tribal shellfish harvesting and its tidelands leasing program.

“Overall, it’s an opportunity to strengthen the tribe’s relationship with landowners and discuss the importance of clean water, the shoreline environment, and the mutual benefit gained by our shellfish tidelands leasing program,” said Viviane Barry, the tribe’s shellfish program manager.

Suquamish shellfish biologist Luke Kelly, left, talks with residents of Dyes Inlet about the tribe's shellfish programs.

Suquamish shellfish biologist Luke Kelly, left, talks with residents of Dyes Inlet about the tribe’s shellfish programs.

The lease program allows the tribe to lease the property owners’ share of the shellfish from the tideland, in exchange for a payment that comes from the percentage of clams harvested. Lease agreements usually run about 10 years.

Property owner Louanna Nelson has been working with the tribe for about five years under the leasing program. The tribe visits the property a few times a year to assess the shellfish population and harvest takes place approximately every three years.

“My husband and I think it’s a privilege to let the tribes on the beach and do the things they need to do,” Nelson said. “Subsistence is really a wonderful thing and we’d like to see our beach flourish too.”

Property owners considering entering a lease agreement with the tribe liked what they heard.

“If someone has a right to it and they are going to treat the land like it should be, I’m for it,” said property owner Carole Dawson. “They do their job and leave. They are working the land like it should be and they have a right to, so it makes sense.”

Owners from a waterfront seven-cottage development on Dyes Inlet see it as a win-win for everyone.

“There’s just two of us who harvest from the tidelands in front of our development,” said property owner Jeff Glenn. “If the tribe is going to seed it and we know it’s going to be maintained, it makes sense.”