Mussel lovers rejoice as Penn Cove reopens for harvest
By JUSTIN BURNETT
Whidbey News Times Staff reporter
June 12, 2012 · Updated 4:13 PM
After being shutdown for nearly a month, Coupeville’s famous mussel farm is once again harvesting in Penn Cove.
Ian Jefferds, owner of Penn Cove Shellfish, said state regulators gave the farm the green light Friday afternoon and the first harvest in about four weeks began in earnest over the weekend.
When asked if he was relieved the closure was finally over, Jefferds said, “Absolutely. Now we see if we can make up for lost time.”
The state Department of Health closed Penn Cove for shellfish harvesting on May 15 following the burning and sinking of a 128-foot fishing boat. It had been illegally anchored just outside the mussel rafts for months.
sMore than 5,000 gallons of fuel were recovered from the ship and on the surface after it went down but not before the fishery was closed. The derelict vessel was raised earlier this month, June 3, at a cost of about $2.7 million.
While some areas were reopened for shellfish harvesting two days after the raising, the majority of Penn Cove wasn’t opened for commercial and recreation harvesting until Friday.
Madrona Beach remains closed as slight contamination was detected in the latest round of odor and taste testing.
The closure has been tough on the renowned mussel farm. The company lost a day of sales, representing over $40,000, the day after the ship sank. The farm was able to mitigate most of its losses from there by shifting harvesting operations to its farm in Quilcene.
Despite the hardship, Jefferds said the disaster could have been a lot worse and expressed gratitude to all the local, state and federal agencies that worked for weeks to control pollution and remove the vessel.
Jefferds said he hasn’t yet tallied all the financial damages the farm incurred from the sinking and closure. For now, he’s content to be back in business in Penn Cove and serving locally grown shellfish to the community.
“The mussels are really fat and sweet and we’re just happy to have them back on local menus,” Jefferds said.
Contact Whidbey News Times Staff reporter Justin Burnett at email@example.com or 360-675-6611 ext. 5054.