Shellfish, Water Quality at Risk in Washington

Pollution threatens shellfish harvesting in 17 of Washington's 97 commercial shellfish growing areas, according to the state's Department of Health. That number is up by two from last year.

The Department of Health list is based on evaluations of growing areas in greater Puget Sound and the coastal waters of Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay.

"Washington is a national shellfish leader, and while shellfish are vital to our state economy, the growing areas also serve as a barometer of the health of our Puget Sound and coastal waters," said Secretary of Health Mary Selecky. "We're seeing progress, but big challenges remain as we work to restore a healthy environment to the waters of the coast and around the Sound."

The Department of Health Shellfish Program has produced the annual list of threatened shellfish areas (www.doh.wa.gov/ehp/sf/growreports.htm) since 1997. As recently as 2005, there were 25 growing areas facing threats from fecal pollution. The number has been dropping gradually, yet many of the areas on this year's threatened list have been listed in previous years.

"The list helps target cleanup efforts to keep these areas clean and productive," said Bob Woolrich, growing area manager for the Department of Health. "Early action can make a big difference in restoring water quality and avoiding more costly and complicated pollution problems down the road."

The pollution threat in four locations is severe enough that growing areas have had to be closed or be subject to reduced harvest under some conditions.

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