Working together to make sure shellfish stay safe to harvest

The Squaxin Island Tribe and Mason County are forming a new partnership to protect one of the most productive shellfish growing areas in the world. The new working relationship will manage an enhanced Pollution Identification and Correction (PIC) program, as part of the state’s recently announced Shellfish Initiative.

“The enhanced program will bring a new emphasis to making sure cleaned up areas stay clean,” said John Konovsky, environmental program manager for the tribe. The tribe will monitor water quality after corrective actions are taken to make sure they’re working and continue to work. Corrective actions may be implemented through voluntary compliance or, as necessary, enforcement against polluters who fail to cooperate.

“We’re going to work with landowners to make sure they clean up pollution, and we’re going to keep on going back to trouble spots to make sure they stay clean,” Konovsky said.

The waters of Oakland Bay and the rest of South Sound are much more sensitive to pollution than the remainder of Puget Sound. “Our community must be more diligent than most in keeping waste out of the water if we are to continue to have the opportunity to harvest shellfish,” said Andy Whitener, natural resources manager for the tribe.

The shorelines of Mason County are among the most productive shellfish growing areas in the world. For example, 40 percent of the country’s manila clam production is from Oakland Bay.

Shellfish are also a large part of the tribe’s culture and economy. More than 20 percent of Squaxin Island tribal members make part or all of their income from harvesting shellfish.

“The Squaxin Island Tribe has always had natural resources, and especially shellfish, at the center of our economic and cultural way of life,” Whitener said. “Pollution that prevents us from being able to harvest is a direct threat to our treaty-reserved rights to shellfish.”

The Mason County Commissioners and the Squaxin Island Tribal Council will sign the inter-local agreement at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, May 29th at the Squaxin Museum in Kamilche. All are invited to attend.


For more information, contact: John Konovsky, environmental program manager, Squaxin Island Tribe, (360) 432-3804. Emmett O’Connell, information officer, (360) 528-4325, [email protected]