COUPEVILLE - Earlier this month, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife contracted with the Hood Canal Oyster Company to plant Pacific oysters on public tidelands at West Penn Cove off Whidbey Island.

This is the first of at least three oyster plantings to compensate for the recreational shellfish harvest closures that occurred during the response to a 5,000-gallon oil spill in May 2012, caused by the sinking of a fishing vessel in Penn Cove. Details about that incident are available at https://incidentnews.noaa.gov/incident/8446#.   

Working with the Washington Department of Ecology, Department of Health, and other members of the Resource Damage Assessment Committee, WDFW conducted a study to determine the amount of lost shellfish harvest opportunity caused by the oil spill incident. The study concluded that 1,996 harvest days were lost, with a monetary value of $97,722.

The owner of the sunken vessel was billed for these damages, but payment was never received. WDFW made a claim to the National Pollution Fund Center, as allowed under provisions of the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, to secure funding to restore shellfish populations.

“This is the first time we have made a successful claim to the National Pollution Fund Center for lost recreational harvest opportunity,” said Don Noviello, WDFW oil spill planning and response specialist. “Preventing oil spills is the best solution for preserving our natural resources, but we are happy that we have been able to get funding and take actions to compensate shellfish harvesters for the 2012 Penn Cove oil spill damages.” 

Oyster planting is performed by spreading oyster shells that are seeded with larval oysters. The planted oysters grow in place to legal size and will mature and be ready to harvest in two to three years. By 2021, shellfish managers expect these plants to add approximately 300,000 harvestable oysters to the Penn Cove recreational fishery.

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