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A New Shellfish Hatchery in Puget Sound is Making Waves in Restoration, Research, and Economic Improvement

Posted by on Monday, June 2nd, 2014

When advancements are made in the field of aquaculture, the entirety of the seafood industry has reason to celebrate. Aquaculture is the avenue by which we will be able to feed a growing population (i.e. our hungry customers!) without increasing fishing pressures on wild populations. But the future of aquaculture lies in being able to support healthy marine ecosystems while creating jobs and stimulating local economies. Not all areas of aquaculture meet these criteria – but when they do, the results are amazing.

shellfish

Shellfish are vital for healthy ecosystems and economies in Puget Sound.
Image courtesy of Flickr user hj_west

On May 22, 2014, a brand new shellfish restoration hatchery opening event took place on the shores of Puget Sound in Washington. Federal, state, tribal, and local representatives celebrated at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Kenneth K. Chew Center for Shellfish Research and Restoration. A shellfish hatchery may not seem to be the hottest news on the press, but in actuality it is something that every seafood lover in the nation should rejoice. This hatchery will help create jobs, stimulate the economy for coastal communities, improve the environment, and mark the beginning of a new era in aquaculture on U.S. shores. Let’s see how this one little hatchery is going to accomplish this impressive list.

The need for aquaculture growth

The growing population of the United States loves seafood. Much of what we consume actually comes from aquaculture, rather than wild-caught fisheries. Interestingly, we have not invested very much in developing our own domestic aquaculture industry. We actually import about 91% of our seafood, half of which includes aquaculture products from other countries. These countries have grown their aquaculture industry by roughly 8% per year to meet the growing demand for seafood, making it the fastest growing food industry on the planet. The United States simply has not kept pace with aquaculture growth, and ranks low on the scale of farmed seafood products that are produced.

Our nation’s procrastination means that we are missing out on a huge area for economic growth. By fostering the expansion of aquaculture here on our home shores, we can create jobs and save money by consuming our own seafood, rather than buying it from other nations. Shellfish aquaculture, in particular, is an area that we absolutely need to consider. Shellfish are an extremely valuable source for healthy seafood protein and farming them has proven to be one of the most sustainable and profitable forms of aquaculture. A very exciting focus for this new hatchery is that it will be used to restore the native populations of wild bivalves, helping foster growth in commercial and recreational fisheries.

shellfish

The United States must make better advancements in aquaculture research if we are to keep up with the growing demand for seafood.
Image courtesy of Flickr group VIUDeepBay.

The benefits for Puget Sound

In the Pacific Northwest alone, the shellfish industry generates about $270 million and employs more than 3,200 people in coastal communities. It’s definitely in our best interest to help foster the growth of this industry. Fortunately, we’ve recognized the importance of having a healthy domestic source for shellfish. Back in 2011, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration launched a National Shellfish Initiative, an effort to increase populations of oysters, mussels, and clams in coastal areas in order to help provide jobs and business opportunities, expand habitat for important species, meet the growing demand for seafood, and help keep our coastal waters clean and protected.

The shellfish initiative sparked the state of Washington into action. Washington is home to Puget Sound, a complex and nutrient-dense estuary that supports a tremendous amount of aquatic life. The population of this area thrives on shellfish and would greatly benefit from efforts to advance shellfish aquaculture, and revitalize the commercial and recreational shellfish harvesting. The installation of this hatchery is big news for Washington’s Puget Sound. The shellfish farmed here have unlimited avenues to improve coastal economies and ecosystems. The actual farming process will improve water quality; the farmed shellfish will be “fed” the waters of the sound so that their powerful filter-feeding capabilities can suck up naturally occurring plankton and act as a sieve to clean water. The shellfish can then be either sold to the seafood market, or used to restore native beds of oysters, mussels, and clams.

Olympia oysters once inhabited 10,000 acres of Puget Sound, yet pollution and hungry appetites have reduced their population by 96%. These tiny quarter-size oysters are the only truly indigenous oyster for Washington’s coast, making it vitally important that we make a strong effort to keep them around. Restored shellfish beds will provide harvestable areas for fishermen, but they will also create structured habitats for other marine organisms, such as fish. As the beds recruit more shellfish, their filtering abilities will be enhanced, generating natural filters to cleanse algae from the water and improve water quality.

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The new shellfish hatchery will help restore wild populations of bivalves as well as contributing to aquaculture research efforts.
Image courtesy of Flickr user Ingrid Taylar

A center for research and conservation

The new hatchery is not just a means by which we can churn out tasty bivalves for the seafood market. It will be a center for research on their life history, physiology, and culture. Researchers and students will be able to study the shellfish as they grow, adding to our knowledge of good aquaculture techniques and how they might respond to variable environmental conditions. We can better understand how to maintain healthy wild shellfish populations in the face of ocean acidification and pollution. It’s a perfect marriage between seafood production, science, and conservation. Once we witness the success of this hatchery in producing shellfish and helping restore Puget Sound’s bivalve populations, other hatcheries will follow in their footsteps. It’s an exciting step in the right direction for the United States and there are just too many benefits for us not to build upon their example. We hope your business will support sustainable seafood by choosing wholesale seafood from the Pucci Foods Catalog today.