Traditional Oyster Collecting


Here’s an interesting way to harvest oysters that I’ve never heard of before. The fishermen toss the dredges overboard to be dragged along as the sailboat moves and when deemed time, the fishermen pull the dredges out by hand and collect their goods. This has been done for over 500 years.  An interesting way to collect, maybe not the way for us.

Traditional Cornish Oyster Collecting

WA Shellfish Workplan

For those of you interested in reading about Washington State’s new Shellfish Initiative this is the comprehensive Phase II work plan.  This UW Shellfish Farm project has the potential to aid in many of the goals in the Shellfish Initiative.


Forward Thinking

Happy New Year!  I hope everyone was able to relax a bit over the holidays and are now ready to begin this new year right! For us, this means moving forward with new ideas for the UW Farm.  The main question yet to be answered, what to do for profit?

The Farm was never meant to be a profit forward entity, more of a learning space, but to satisfy the University we must provide some sort of profit be it money or oysters.  How to do this? Seed spat sale, restoration, or some other means? Right now I am researching the money and time necessary to make our next move.  With hopes we can come up with our plan of action very shortly.  Stay tuned.

Future Goals

Recently a meeting took place to discuss the future of our UW Shellfish Farm.  At this point adventuring down the commercial enterprise road seems arduous, but it is still a very viable option. However, if this project does change course, we would like some sort of profit involved. After brainstorming for a while, we were able to come up with some other ideas:

  1. selling of spat seed.  Dabob Bay has a similar system that we could base this off of.
  2. convince a corporate sponsor to work with us (Taylor?). They would help with the permitting process, possibly shorten it.
  3. use the area as a restoration site. Sell off oysters for restoration.

These are beginning ideas.  I will be diagramming the alternatives and doing a cost-benefit analysis to assess which course of action will be the most beneficial to the project.

What do you think?

Interview 1-Evergreen Farm

I recently talked to a representative of the Washington Shellfish Initiative through the Puget Sound Restoration Fund.  While in college at Evergreen State University, he and a couple others started a shellfish garden. This garden is completely non-commercial and focuses on providing a space for students to learn, hang, and eat oysters.  The main difference between our farm and his is location and the fact that the oysters always remain on site. Since Evergreen is located directly on the waterfront, it makes not having to move the oysters for student consumption much easier.

From beginning to end it took him around 8-9 months to create the farm.  6-7 of these months were spent entirely on internal admissions with the University.  This makes me nervous, as I have little time and have just started talking to University representatives.  But, this also gives me hope because I know that a farm can be created in less than 2 years.  For their farm they were able to get the permits needed for the State Environmental Protection Act (SEPA), the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) and the Shoreline Management Act (SMA) waived.  The SEPA and the NEPA can potentially take weeks or months to complete.  He did have to fill out the JARPA (Joint Aquatic Research Permit Application) that’s needed for any building project related to the water.  To complete the JARPA, the only permit completely necessary for a shellfish garden was a Hydraulic Project Approval permit (HPA).  This permit takes only a two to three weeks to complete.   If our project can get some permits waived as well, this could potentially cut down months off the permitting process.

His advice for me was to start talking to the University now, talk to people who know about shellfish aquaculture permitting in Washington, and educate myself to other potentials for the UW shellfish farm.

Overall, this talk was highly informative and helped narrow down my ideas for what to do.



A pondering

There is a slight “complication” but more of a nuisance that has recently arisen. Our objective for this project is to educate students to the benefits of shellfish aquaculture and provide them with a space to learn and explore.  However, a part of the reason the school agreed to this project was the idea of giving the dining halls at the school fresh oysters.  This created the “complication”. Because we are moving and giving oysters for human consumption, our project is classified as a ‘commercial’ enterprise.  Having a commercial aquaculture increases the amount of time, money, and permits needed.

From this point we have to question the image of the project.  We could create  a shellfish “garden” , which is non-commercial, but we wouldn’t be able to move or provide the dining halls with oysters.  This would allow us to grow oysters and hold more of a potluck style dining experience at BBC.  We could also still do projects and educational retreats.

Next step is to figure out the legality with the school.  Would they still want to project with the omission of the dining hall? How legal would it be to give oysters to the school? And what in-house procedures do we need to go through to make it happen?


Last week I ventured out with my co-worker Dan to explore the beauty of Big Beef Creek and talk to the local caretaker.  The site is gorgeous.  With a freshwater inlet that leads out into the sound, mountain views, and a swarm of bald and some golden eagles, it is an an idillic place.

The main concern from the caretaker with regards to implementing aquaculture at Big Beef Creek is the potential push-back from neighboring waterfront property owners due to “visual impact” of intertidal grow-out gear. Though these concerns are valid from a homeowners perspective, I don’t feel pressure yet to worry. The farm we are proposing is small-scale with minimal gear, sited within an existing research preserve. This discrepancy highlights the importance of creating dialogue and understanding between stakeholders early in the process.

Biologically, the BBC site is a unique site for shellfish aquaculture. While we will sample for nutrient availability (as it relates to oyster growth), the rocky substrate lends itself well to both bottom and off-bottom culture, and the water is cleared for growing by the WA Department of Health. The site is protected from strong southerly winds, though is exposed to sporadic northerly systems. Exposure to such tides will help “harden” oysters, producing thick shells and strong adductor muscles.

Our next steps for BBC permitting will be to contact the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and recontact the DOH to move forward on paperwork.

Overall this was a good first trip and am excited to head back out soon.

Our Site

Good News!

The University of Washington officially owns tidal land.  Our farm will be located at Big Beef Creek reserve along the Hood Canal.  We are excited to get started here.

Along BBC there is a variety of wildlife: salmon, oysters, eagles, and other critters.  It should end up being a beautiful site for an oyster farm.

Next week I will be visiting the area for the first time.  Pictures will come.