Shellfish Culture: High-Quality Seafood and a Means of Enhancing Ecosystem Services

Monday, February 18, 2013
Room 310 (Hynes Convention Center)
Betsy Peabody , Puget Sound Restoration Fund, Bainbridge Island, WA
Research is demonstrating that filter-feeding shellfish provide habitat, other environmental services, jobs, income and food.  Various groups are attempting to increase the number of shellfish in the near shore and offshore environments in hopes of securing one or more of these benefits.   At the same time, shellfish populations and farms, both of which are important service providers in marine ecosystems, are at the front lines of the impacts of global climate change. In order to capture and sustain the food, economic and ecological benefits of shellfish, there is a need for new and innovative inputs from science. To this end, Puget Sound Restoration Fund is collaborating with multiple partners to 1) Advance scientific understanding of ocean acidification and its effects on hatchery-produced and natural shellfish populations; 2) Establish a shellfish hatchery at the National Marine Fisheries Service’s Manchester Lab to produce genetically diverse native oyster seed and help rebuild an important intertidal habitat feature; 3) Quantify ecosystem services provided by dense native oyster assemblages  in order to demonstrate the value of restored oyster bed habitat to salmon and ecosystem recovery efforts; and 4) Investigate co-culturing shellfish and eelgrass as a means of creating improved seawater chemistry conditions.  The overarching goal of these restoration aquaculture projects is to rebuild functional ecosystems that support iconic coastal resources and that help sustain human well being. Shellfish populations – whether restored, cultivated, or natural - provide vital ecological services at a fraction of the cost that engineered systems require.  For instance, shellfish help mitigate nutrient pollution and ameliorate the effects of ocean acidification.  It is in our interest to restore, cultivate, and maintain shellfish populations, since natural filtration provides a cost effective means of maintaining a healthy marine system that supports the many benefits we value. Science is critical to maintaining shellfish aquaculture in the face of corrosive seawater conditions and illustrating the many other benefits that coastal systems and aquaculture provide. Project partners include NOAA, NMFS, Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, Washington Department of Natural Resources, Washington Tribes, commercial shellfish growers, The Nature Conservancy, National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, Northwest Straits Commission, University of Washington, Washington Sea Grant, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Navy, private tideland owners and community groups.