Our mission is to protect the habitat of Puget Sound tidelands from the underregulated expansion of new and intensive shellfish aquaculture methods. These methods were never anticipated when the Shoreline Management Act was passed. They are transforming the natural tideland ecosystems in Puget Sound and are resulting in a fractured shoreline habitat. In South Puget Sound much of this has been done with few if any meaningful shoreline permits and with limited public input. It is exactly what the Shoreline Management Act was intended to prevent.

Get involved and contact your elected officials to let them you do not support aquaculture's industrial transformation of Puget Sound's tidelands.

Governor Inslee:

Friday, April 7, 2017

Norovirus in Shellfish from Puget Sound and British Columbia - A Wintertime Problem for Shellfish

It's no longer summer time oysters 
industry and consumers 
need to worry about.

A business model is becoming ill.
The recent outbreak of illnesses traced to Norovirus contracted from the consumption of raw oysters harvested from Puget Sound and British Columbia is presenting new and major problems for the northwest shellfish industry. It has created a year-round safety question about oysters and shellfish safety harvested from the northwest, put in question the export market, seen how the east coast shellfish growers are stepping in with safe native shellfish, and created increased risk to a business model.

Summertime Vibriosis from Puget Sound oysters
In the past, the naturally occurring bacterium Vibrio parahaemolyticus increased dramatically during the warm summer months and resulted in the contraction of vibriosis from raw oysters harvested from Puget Sound. Over the past decade, immense effort has gone into attempts to control the outbreaks. While somewhat successful, vibriosis is still being contracted from Puget Sound oysters harvested in the summer months. To make matters more of a challenge, warming temperatures increase the probability of the more virulent bacterium Vibrio vulnificus, currently found in Gulf Coast grown oysters, becoming established in Puget Sound (DOH reported it 2013 Vv having been found in Washington grown shellfish - click here for paper).

Wintertime Norovirus in Puget Sound and British Columbia oysters, and nobody knows why
A March 31 press release from King County has said the outbreak of illnesses contracted by hundreds from eating raw oysters has nothing to do with their failed treatment plant. They point out the oysters contaminated with norovirus have come from growing areas as far south as Olympia, WA, to British Columbia in the north and that illnesses began far before, stating in the press release:
"The implicated oysters [for illnesses contracted in King County] come from all over the Puget Sound – from down near Olympia to all the way up in Bellingham/Samish Bay." 

A March 22 article in The Globe and Mail quotes the BC Shellfish Growers Association as saying, "...the longer the outbreak continues the more devastating it is for the industry." The article goes on further to note BCSGA executive director Darlene Winterburn:
She said the cause of the norovirus has yet to be determined and government officials and scientists are examining a range of possibilities, including a sewage leak or perhaps an unusually cold winter that also meant less sunlight, which affected the oysters’ ability to filter toxins.
More than oysters at risk - geoduck from Hammersley Inlet 
It is not only contaminated oysters shellfish growers are concerned about. China consumes almost 90 percent of the geoduck clams harvested in these same waters. Like oysters, they too filter the water and retain whatever may happen to be in that water. In south Puget Sound, Hammersley Inlet contains one of Taylor Shellfish's largest geoduck operations. Beginning in mid-March, shellfish growing areas of Hammersley Inlet began to be closed by the Department of Health, who expanded those areas closed in the first week of April, moving west towards Taylor's geoduck operation. Of concern to growers is China and Hong Kong do not hesitate banning imports of tainted shellfish, as noted in August of 2015 when this occurred:
Hong Kong has decided to ban the import and sale of all raw oysters from British Columbia, Canada, after the province announced that a batch had been contaminated with bacteria.
Opportunities seen by East Coast Shellfish Growers: Restaurants in Vancouver "...carrying east coast oysters not subject to the same contamination scare." (Vancouver Sun, March 22)
Unlike the tainted shellfish found in the northwest waters, the East Coast shellfish growers believe their product to be a safe alternative with restaurants in Vancouver already describing their east coast oysters as being "..not subject to the same contamination scare." CBCNews noted on April 5, as a result of the norovirus illnesses from British Columbia (and presumably Puget Sound), the northeast shellfish operators in the Maritimes (Canada's eastern provinces) were  "...struggling to keep up with demand." An interview with one of the northeast growers speaks about the BC growers problem and the difference between the native oysters they provide versus the non-native Pacific Oysters grown in BC.

Expansion at risk of becoming ill?
Unable to determine the source of the Norovirus which has tainted oysters from the northwest has put in question the expansion so desired by this industry. Financing is at risk when over 300 people become ill from oysters over a large geographic area and nobody knows what the source is. Should China ban shellfish from the northwest because of bacteria or virus, as they have done before, a revenue stream will come to a halt. That increased risk is an illness the industry should be concerned about.

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