Gov. Inslee’s Shellfish Initiative

The Washington Shellfish Initiative is a powerful partnership between state and federal government, Tribes, the shellfish aquaculture industry and non-government entities to promote critical clean-water commerce, elevate the role that shellfish play in keeping our marine waters healthy and create family wage jobs.

In 2011, following the launch of the National Shellfish Initiative - under former Governor Gregoire’s leadership - Washington was the first state in the nation to establish a shellfish initiative to advance our shellfish goals.

Shellfish have an important place in Washington state’s heritage. Tribes have harvested shellfish for generations, feeding their communities from Puget Sound and coastal shores.

Shellfish farming is also a foundation for rural Western Washington economies. We lead the nation in farmed shellfish production with 10,616 metric tons of oysters, clams, and mussels in 2013. Washington shellfish growers directly and indirectly employed over 2,700 people and provided an estimated total economic contribution of $184 million in 2010.

Looking Ahead – Shellfish Initiative Phase II

Since the 2011 Washington Shellfish Initiative, we’ve made important progress, but more work remains. The Shellfish Initiative’s Phase II renews our commitment to Puget Sound and coastal communities in all aspects of commercial, recreational and tribal based shellfish harvest. This phase of the Shellfish Initiative aims to:

  1. Ensure clean water. Prevent and fix pollution problems and re-open shellfish beds. 
  2. Embrace strategies to address ocean acidification's impact on shellfish. Implement strategies through the Marine Resource Advisory Council, the Washington Ocean Acidification Center, and other collaborative efforts.
  3. Advance shellfish research topics. Study diverse topics from harmful algal blooms to economic impacts and ecosystems services.
  4. Improve permitting processes to maintain and increase sustainable aquaculture. Increase predictability and timeliness in aquaculture permitting.
  5. Restore native shellfish. Grow and plant baby Olympia oysters and Pinto abalone in native habitat.
  6. Enhance recreational shellfish harvest. Connect people with shellfish and harvest experiences, protecting shoreline environments and restoring water quality around Puget Sound, Willapa Bay, Grays Harbor, and the outer coast.
  7. Educate the next generation about shellfish. Engage students and the public in understanding local shellfish resources, ecosystems services and water quality.

Key Successes

  • Reopened shellfish beds. By solving water quality pollution problems, 2,429 acres of shellfish beds have been opened in Oakland Bay, Quartermaster Harbor, Hood Canal/Belfair, Kingston and Dungeness Bay, since 2012. More from WA Dept. of Health here
  • Native shellfish restoration hatchery. NOAA and the Puget Sound Restoration Fund opened a native shellfish restoration hatchery to grow baby Olympia oysters and Pinto abalone. This hatchery sets the stage for future larger-scale restoration of native species. See a video to learn more.
  • Streamlined permit process. The Shellfish Interagency Permitting team developed key tools for assisting applicants and permit reviewers in navigating the shellfish aquaculture permitting process.
  • Community engagement. Washington State Parks and other partners have organized six Shellfest events, connecting local communities with their shorelines, since the Washington Shellfish Initiative was announced in December 2011.
  • Pollution reduction. Helping to prevent sewage from polluting our waters, the Clean Vessel Program installed and replaced sewage pump-outs for boaters at 31 locations around Puget Sound and on the coast.
  • Tackling ocean acidification. The Washington State Blue Ribbon Panel on Ocean Acidification created a comprehensive strategy for addressing ocean acidification in Washington’s marine waters. Washington became a leader in the nation by demonstrating what a state can do to address ocean acidification.


Jennifer Hennessey
Shellfish Policy Advisor, Governor's Office


Washington Shellfish Initiative (WSI) 

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