"For over 75 years, Blau Oyster Co. has relied on Washington state's cool clean waters to grow the plump oysters that are as prized in the Northwest as salmon and orcas. But too much pollution from animal and human waste has been washing into Samish Bay in north Puget Sound, prohibiting shellfish harvests 38 days already this year.
'If the water quality isn't good, we can't be open,' said Scott Blau, whose family has been farming in these tidelands 80 miles north of Seattle since 1935. Most of the harvest from the small business is shucked and ends up in stews or can be ordered pan-fried or raw at local restaurants; some oysters are sold in the shell as far away as Hong Kong and Singapore.
Washington state is the nation's leading producer of farmed oysters, clams and other bivalves with about $100 million in annual sales. The recent downgrade of 4,000 acres of shellfish beds in Samish Bay because of fecal contamination means more days when shellfish beds can't be harvested, hurting the local economy and jeopardizing the much larger, decades-long effort to clean up pollution in Puget Sound, the nation's second largest estuary. It also was set back in the state's goal to increase 10,800 acres of harvestable shellfish beds by 2020."