Over 400 attend second Shuckin�

Published on Thu, May 8, 2003 by Rebecca Schwarz Kopf

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Over 400 attend second Shuckin�

By Rebecca Schwarz Kopf

About 400 people, half of the expected turnout, attended last Saturday�s Shuckin� on the Spit, an event held to raise awareness and funds to clean up Drayton Harbor for harvesting shellfish again by 2004.

�I thought it was pretty successful. We had a lot of people out on the water. We got them out on the beds,� said Geoff Menzies, manager of the Drayton Harbor Community Oyster Farm Project.

The whole reason for Shuckin� on the Spit, Menzies said, is to spread awareness about the current pollution problems in the Harbor and the resources that are affected. �Our natural resources depend on clean water. If we want to harvest shellfish locally, everybody has a responsibility to manage their land. We need to make sure we take care of it,� he said. �It�s a community problem and it�s going to take individuals acting responsibly. People need to start making a connection to the products grown locally.�

Commercial oyster farming was completely shut down in 1995 when the waters were deemed too polluted for safe harvest. Tribal and recreational shellfish harvesting was closed shortly thereafter. To combat this, the Puget Sound Restoration Fund teamed up with Trillium Corporation and local advocates for clean water to form the Drayton Harbor Community Oyster Farm Project. Menzies was the last commercial oyster farmer in the harbor before the 1995 closure.

Last weekend�s Shuckin� was the second annual, and featured information booths, exhibitors, tideflat tours, visits to the oyster beds on the Plover ferry, games, and of course seafood. Washington producers, both upland and tideland, donated to the event, including more than $2,000 worth of oysters, clams and mussels. �The food was great. I think they did a fabulous job. The resort has just been wonderful,� Menzies said.

Jeff Klein, director of catering at Semiahmoo Resort said there was a staff of about 30 involved in the preparation of food. �I thought it was a blast. It went really well,� he said. �There was lots of oysters, salmon, skillet-roasted clams and mussels, berry cobbler, and clam chowder. It was fun.�

�Everyone that has attended Shuckin� has just raved about it,� Menzies said. �We just need more bodies,� he continued, adding half of the hoped numbers turned out.

The weather and possible ticket prices could have been reasons for a lower turnout. Last year 600 people attended the festival, and this year 400 turned out. Organizers hoped to see 800 visitors. The tickets in 2002 cost $15, and this year they ran at $20, and $25 on the day of the event. Two dollars from every ticket was donated directly to the Puget Sound Restoration Fund.

�We really thank all of our sponsors. Without their support, we couldn�t do this,� Menzies said.

The road to harvesting
The state health department has said it will not reclassify the oyster beds until the pollution in the harbor is solved. One step in getting there included a recent dye test that confirmed there was no human sewage leaking from the sewer system into the harbor.

The department of health is most concerned with fecal coliform from humans in the water, Menzies said. �We are resource rich, but yet because of pollution we can�t harvest. We need to feed people�s minds and bodies.�

Shuckin� in 2004
As for Shuckin� in 2004, Menzies said those involved will gather within the month to discuss the event and evaluate for next year.

�We�re still scheduled to harvest this crop next year,� Menzies said. �May of 2004 was the initial projected date and we�d like to stick to the schedule.�

If all goes well, 2004 could see a 200,000 oyster harvest. �A lot of work goes into this. They are great things of beauty,� Menzies said.