Gov. Chris Gregoire, Billy Frank Jr. and Dr. Jane Lubchenco of NOAA listen to Bill Dewey of Taylor Shellfish during the launch of the Washington Shellfish Initiative.

Representatives of western Washington treaty tribes were present at last week’s event celebrating the Washington Shellfish Initiative. The effort would promote growing shellfish and restoring ecosystems in Washington State.

From the Olympian’s coverage of the event:

Supporters of the initiative said the shellfish industry raises clams and oysters that filter and improve water quality. They are part of the Puget Sound cleanup solution, not part of the problem, they said.

“We’re ready to stand by our shellfish growers,” said Billy Frank Jr., chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission.

Bill Taylor’s piece in the Olympian this morning explains the project well:

The Washington State Shellfish Initiative includes an effort to bring together expertise from agencies with regulatory authority over shellfish farms to overcome these challenges, promote healthy marine waters and productive shellfish beds and bring much-needed jobs back to our state. We at Taylor are hopeful that it will provide a more predictable and efficient permit process while continuing to ensure that regulatory requirements are met.

The initiative also includes commitments to restore native shellfish, enhance recreational shellfishing, continue vital shellfish aquaculture research and direct funding and agency resources toward improving water quality in commercial, recreational and tribal shellfish growing areas. Taylor has been involved in the promotion of these efforts for decades, and often in partnership with environmental organizations, state and federal agencies and tribes.

However, we have never before experienced this level of unified commitment from so many critical stakeholders. We believe this is the level of effort required to ensure that the initiative’s goals are achieved.

Treaty tribes want a healthy shellfish industry, because that means our region can still be a source of food that have sustained tribes for generations. Billy Frank Jr. explains this point in a recent column:

Treaty tribal and non-Indian shellfish producers are on the front line of monitoring and protecting water quality in Puget Sound and along the coast. We can measure the health of these waters by the health of the shellfish that live there. Healthy water produces healthy shellfish, and healthy shellfish is good food for all of us.

The problem comes when we stop connecting our food to the place where it comes from. Salmon and shellfish don’t come from the grocery store. They come from nature.

Our lands and waters are naturally productive, just like salmon and shellfish. All they need is a little help to let them do what they do. We should be celebrating the fact that we can still produce and harvest salmon and shellfish in western Washington.