Shellfish growers need oil protection
January 25, 2011 · Updated 1:59 PM
As shellfish growers, we watched in horror as the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico drifted toward the shore and thousands of acres of oyster beds. Many of our oyster growing friends in the Gulf were forced to close their family businesses that have been operating for generations. What happened to the Gulf Coast oyster beds could happen to our farm too.
Although our farm is in southern Puget Sound, hundreds of shellfish farms, as well as other fisheries, line the shores of Puget Sound, the Straits of Juan de Fuca, and the coast. Many of these businesses are small, single owner/operator businesses that cannot afford to be shut down. Our small farm employs 27 people from Mason and Thurston counties with a payroll of almost $1 million.
It is essential to improve funding for the Department of Ecology’s Oil Spill Program. It cannot continue running a multimillion dollar deficit. By strengthening the requirement for stockpiling the appropriate equipment in logical locations in Washington, we can ensure a faster, more effective response. It is also important to expand the oil spill drill program to ensure the assumptions that were made on paper will actually occur in real time. And finally, we should train, equip, and drill commercial fisherman and shellfish growers to increase the region’s response capacities.
Rep. Christine Rolfes, D–Bainbridge Island, and Rep. Zack Hudgins, D-Tukwila, understand the need for this prevention and stronger response plan. They are co-sponsoring a bill (HB1186) that will protect our waters from wide-scale destruction as seen in the Gulf.
We want our water to be clean so that we can harvest premium seafood for your tables.
Brett and Lisa Bishop
Little Skookum Shellfish Growers, Inc.