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Oyster Heaven on Earth

2017-12-08 10:12:32
by:Lissa James, Hama Hama & Kathy Charlton More than any other food, oysters evoke place. Their flavor and texture depend on salinity, minerals, temperature and plankton. Oysters grown downstream from loamy soils taste different from those grown in gravel estuaries. A Washington State tour focused on mollusks might take you from clean-tasting Hood Canal to earthier Willapa Bay to sweet Totten Inlet. The U.S. imports nearly 80% of its fresh seafood, but here in Puget Sound the shellfish is still our own. We live in one of the last oyster heavens on earth, where a family with a bucket and a license can go harvest wild shellfish from the sea. And our shellfish industry is generally considered a poster child for a green economy: clean water allows shellfish farmers to create jobs, and their hard-working crops help keep the water clean. In few other industries are the environment and economics so immediately and deeply connected. In regions around the world, oysters have been systematically overharvested and polluted out of existence; Washington came close to losing our own oyster operations about a century ago, thanks to the twin problems of overharvesting and massive pulp mills and the related pollution. Now that farmers can grow oysters from seed, overharvesting isn’t an issue. But pollution still is, and even our generally healthy local oysters face problems. Ocean acidification may seem like an abstract concern, but its impacts are already being felt in shellfish hatcheries.