Shellfish farmers confront silent watershed crises

By Tiffany Ran as appeared in Seattle’s — Recent problems facing the shellfish industry have made nurturing the tender little bivalves a little tougher, leaving farmers struggling to stay productive and sustainable.

Ask a shellfish farmer about his plans and he would first consult his tide calendar. Between now and the equinox, Gary Webb of Eagle Rock Shellfish Company, must use any remaining daylight low tide hours to finish up maintenance and work on his nets. As of the first week of October, he will no longer be able to see his tideflats without a head lamp. This he knows for a fact.
The farming of bivalves, like mussels, oysters, clams, geoducks, and scallops, has long been regarded as one of the most sustainable forms of aquaculture. Unlike fish farming, which requires added feed, the suspended bivalves feed off nutrients in the water and act as filters.
In 2010, the World Wildlife Federation released a list of global standards for sustainably farming bivalves. This year Food Alliance started training certifiers to accredit North American shellfish farms practicing sustainable aquaculture. These standards touch upon a variety of issues like pesticide use, avoiding the co-optation of bays with structures friendly to other wildlife, and international protocols for disease prevention, as well as providing a safe working environment and fair wages to workers.
“Sustainability, especially for a small guy like me, it’s everything,” said Webb. “There is sustainability, and you also need consistency.”
Consistency is where it gets dicey. …Read the rest of the post here.