The Drayton Harbor Community Oyster Farm barge, dubbed “Beauty,” is escorted by the Beast and crew into Blaine Harbor. Both boats are being hauled out of the water for maintenance during the next two months.
They will be back in the drink in early March when harvest gets underway for the recently established community supported aquaculture (CSA) project. Thanks to investments from the Puget Sound Restoration Fund and over 50 local oyster-loving shareholders, oyster farming in Drayton Harbor will stay alive at least through the spring of 2010.
Due to continuing bacterial pollution of Drayton Harbor during the wet season, the Washington State Department of Health has recommended a seasonal closure of shellfish harvest from November 1 through the end of February, which is expected to go into effect soon.
This is prime oyster harvesting season, but also the worst period for runoff pollution that makes the oysters and other shellfish unsafe to eat. In spite of a red tide closure for the entire month of October and heavy winds and repeated rain closures during most of November, the Community Oyster Farm was able to get several loads of jumbo oysters harvested and shipped to China.
Extremely high bacterial counts throughout the watershed in mid-December followed by a large rain event just before Christmas forced us to cancel a Christmas Eve sale and donation of yearling oysters to our CSA shareholders.
It is unfortunate that after 20 years of effort to recover water quality in Drayton Harbor we still find ourselves in this situation. Whatcom County is just a little over a year into the development and implementation of proactive local programs that are designed to identify and correct bacterial pollution from small farm livestock waste and from dysfunctional septic systems.
Progress is being made on both fronts and if these programs stay on track, water quality should improve even during the wet season when oysters are in their prime.
In the meantime, we look forward to being able to harvest oysters this coming spring once the wet weather is largely behind us and water quality in Drayton Harbor is clean enough for a safe harvest.
I know that by then our CSA shareholders will be more than ready for their first delivery of oysters and a healthy rather than tainted “taste of the sea.”