The UW Shellfish Farm will contribute directly and indirectly to environmental conservation. First, the intensive production of shellfish will improve water quality conditions at Big Beef Creek. In Puget Sound, production of single Pacific oysters for the half-shell market using traditional on-bottom methods typically yields approximately 240,000 oysters per acre with a biomass of about 36,000 pounds. Over a two-year harvest cycle, approximate production is thus 18,000 pounds per acre per year. Depending on the outcome of the proposed assessment of habitat suitability, the UW Shellfish Farm could be scaled to several acres within the 9.7-acre Big Beef Tidelands.
Our initial proposal includes the development of an environmental monitoring program to quantify the impacts of the shellfish farm on water quality in Big Beef Creek. Specifically, we aim to monitor salinity, temperature, pH/pCO2, and dissolved oxygen in the estuary. The current proposal will provide valuable intra-annual environmental data as we conduct shellfish culture trials at the site. These data will guide the development of an ongoing monitoring program. Environmental data from our monitoring program will inform UW research, and will be made available to the scientific community and general public.
There is both precedent and ongoing interest in establishing environmental monitoring at Big Beef Creek. From 2009-2011, Big Beef Creek was one of several sites in Puget Sound at which researchers sampled oyster populations and water quality to better understand the relationship between environment and organism health. Several research products resulted from this effort, known as PROPS (Physiological Response of Oysters in Puget Sound, http://faculty.washington.edu/sr320/?p=589). Future data collected from monitoring at BBC, as in PROPS, can readily aid resource managers, policy makers, and scientists in assessing remediation efforts, restoration activities, and allow for informed predictions of risks associated with changes in habitat quality. The Big Beef Creek estuary is also currently a priority site for the Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Project (http://pnwsalmoncenter.org/project/lower-big-beef-creek-design/); positive attention created by implementing the farm may make the site more desirable for further conservation efforts.
Direct impacts of the shellfish farm can also be quantified through the number of students that: 1) participate in environmental outreach and education programs on the farm, 2) utilize the farm for capstone research, and 3) volunteer to work on the farm. As of Spring 2015, there are approximately 400 students participating in SAFS, Marine Biology and SMEA undergraduate and graduate programs, and hundreds more involved in other academic programs within the College of the Environment. The potential for diverse student involvement is extremely high.
- Is the shellfish going to be sold on campus? To whom? Housing and Food Services? At what cost? Not during this period
- Is there potential for a revolving fund loan/return on investment mechanism? Yes
- Who is overseeing the quality control/safety of the shellfish to eat? As of now, no shellfish will be consumed.
- Is there a way for more student involvement and engagement? Yes, addtional UW students will be included in the monitoring described in this proposal.
- Is there a Phase III, or is this the end goal for now? We see this as the last bridge prior to discussing a partnership. During the current quarter there will a number of discussions on how to best proceed. The end goal is to have a functional UW Shellfish Farm. The current proposal is intended to provide essential biological and practical information on how to get to our end goal of a functional UW Shellfish Farm.