Bacteria forces closure of tribal oyster season
Clallam County, WA - The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe says it has no choice but to shut down its oyster beds in Dungeness Bay this winter because of bacterial pollution, a decision that means the loss of thousands of dollars in income.
Last month, the State Department of Ecology ordered further closures of shellfish beds in the bay because of high levels of fecal coliform bacteria.
Experts say that bacteria comes from septic systems and animals and can lead to serious health problems in humans when ingested in quantity. Researchers say the problem has been prevalent in the shallow bay for several years, but in last three years has reached levels where hundreds of acres of shellfish beds have been contaminated, prompting the DOE closures.
The research has identified failing septic systems and animal waste along the Dungeness River and its tributaries as the source for the bacteria, but has been inconclusive about pinpointing the problem, mainly because of the cost associated with such a detailed survey.
The past DOE closures have hindered the tribe’s operation. But now for the first time, the tribe says it will have to close the entire operation during its most profitable season. The Seattle Times reported this week that tribe will be focusing on in its crab business instead, and continuing to work on long term solutions to solve the fecal coliform problem. That should keep 5 workers employed, compared with the 15 who worked in the program just a few years ago, harvesting thousand of gallons of oysters each month.
The county has worked to deal with possible sources of bacteria from area farms. And it has identified more than 100 “septics of concern”, or systems that should be repaired or replaced. However, the county has had limited action to help those homeowners. The county has recently tried to buy a handful of properties near the River’s mouth where it says septic systems are failing.
But county officials have admitted privately to PNN that they are reluctant to press enforcement without a better program in place to cover the costs of such repairs. New, high tech septic systems can cost well over 10-thousand dollars to install in environmentally sensitive areas and are beginning to rival the cost of hookups to community sewage treatment.
Peninsula: Unprecedented shellfish closures cloak entire North
State health officials say an unprecedented outbreak of a marine toxin found in mussels off Marrowstone Island is on the decline, but they're keeping shellfish harvesting closed in most of the waters in north Jefferson County.
The closure extends from Cape George east to Marrowstone Island at Marrowstone Point and south to Liplip Point including Port Townsend Bay, Kilisut Harbor, Mystery Bay and Oak Bay south to Mats Mats Bay for all species of shellfish.
In Clallam County, Sequim Bay is closed, along with all beaches from Dungeness Bay to Cape Flattery and south of Cape Flattery to the county line because of paralytic shellfish poisoning, not the same toxin found in the Jefferson County waters.
An up-to-date closure listing is available on the Internet at www.doh.wa.gov/gis/biotoxin.htm.
The toxin, domoic acid, has never been detected in on the interior
waters of the state including Puget Sound, state Department of Health
Biotoxin Coordinator Frank Cox said Friday from Olympia.
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