Shellfish at Work! A Budd Inlet nutrient bioextraction project

Eutrophication is a problem throughout Puget Sound and specifically in  Budd Inlet it has led to problems including low DO.  Bioextraction is a method of removing nitrogen through harvesting shellfish and seaweed.  Mussel harvesting is a method of “recycling” these excess nutrients.  PSI has been investigating this method for use in Puget Sound.  In 2011 a pilot project in Quartermaster harbor was found to have success.  A project in Budd inlet was subsequently launched in 2013.  Monthly data was collected at three  sites.  By mid July 2013 a good mussel set was found on the sampling straps.  TESC was involved in composting the mussels that had grown on the setting straps.  4500 pounds were composted by TESC.  New composting collaborations with WDOC-Cedar Creek composting has begun.  Compost testing resulted in high calcium content, and grew vegetables successfully.  Results indicate that 8000 lbs. of mussels = A removal of 80 Lbs. of nitrogen, or 0.66  lbs. per day.  In order to remove 100 lbs. of nitrogen per day, 16,810 straps would need to be installed (compared to the pilot study of 120 straps).  This would equal the size of 2 West Bay Marinas.  In addition to the quantitative data and feasibility of this mediation process, this project served as a great way to educate the public through youth community involvement about nutrient systems and what they can do on a daily basis to help improve water quality.

Squaxin Island Tribe Begins Shellfish Surveys in Vaughn Bay

Squaxin Island Tribe’s shellfish department will begin clam population surveys in Vaughn Bay, Pierce County this week.

The surveys will occur on privately owned tidelands within the bay. This area had previously been closed to commercial shellfish harvest due to water quality problems, but has recently been upgraded to approved status.


Approximately sixty parcels have been identified as possible clam beaches and will be surveyed by the Natural Resources Shellfish department this summer. The goal of the department is to maintain treaty harvest rights in this area and provide harvest opportunities for Squaxin Island tribal members.

Squaxin Island Tribe Installs Geoduck Show Plot Near Hartstene Island


Photo 1. Geoduck Show Plot

On March 17th the Squaxin Island shellfish department began installation of a sub-tidal geoduck “show-plot” near the North end of Hartstene Island
(photo 1). This is useful in sub-tidal geoduck biomass surveys as it allows us to properly calibrate our surveys to local variations and account for temporal variability in show factors. These show plots are used to determine the number of geoduck that are actually present in a given area but that remain unseen or do not “show” (see photo 2).
Geoduck "show" marked by white stake

Photo 2. Individual Geoduck "shows" marked with white stakes.

Divers mark individual geoduck shows over time to determine the number of total geoducks in a defined area (photo 3). Once this number is known we can then return to count the number of showing geoducks and determine the show factor for that given day when conducting local geoduck surveys. This is just one of the many steps involved in surveying a subtidal geoduck tract.
Photo 3.  Eric Sparkman Marking Individual Geoduck Shows.

Photo 3. Eric Sparkman Marking Individual Geoduck Shows.

2009 Spring Beach Cleanup

Squaxin Island Tribe's Natural Resources boat loaded with trash found on the island

Natural Resources Department Boat Loaded With Trash From The Island

Twice a year PCSGA hosts beach cleanup events at the Arcadia launch.  Every year dumpsters are filled with various types of debris that has washed ashore.  Some of the source of this trash is from aquaculture activities and much of it  is from other sources. 

Squaxin Island employees and tribal members helped clean up the entire shoreline of Squaxin Island this year.  We had several boat loads of trash come off the island and everyone’s help was greatly appreciated.  Thanks to all for keeping Squaxin Island clean!

For more information on PCSGA beach cleanups see

Eric Sparkman and Levi Keesecker from Natural Resources removing washed up net from Squaxin Island

Eric Sparkman and Levi Keesecker Retrieving a Net That Has Washed Ashore


Joe Peters and Daniel Kuntz from Natural Resources picking up trash on Squaxin Island

Daniel Kuntz and Joe Peters Cleaning Up Squaxin Island


Sarah Haque Finding Trash On Squaxin Island

Squaxin Island Geoduck Test-Plot Progress

"Planted" Geoduck Tubes
Geoduck tubes were removed from small test-plots on Squaxin Island in early January.  These tubes were put in prior to planting to help protect the baby geoduck from predation.  Generally tubes are removed after approximately 1 year as the clams have dug deep enough to avoid most predators.  Many individuals from Squaxin Island Natural Resources were present and helped make this night of beachwork  go smoothly.  Thanks for all the help!
John Konovsky Pulling Tubes

John Konovsky Pulling Tubes


Scott Steltzner Pulling Tubes

Scott Steltzner Pulling Tubes

Eric Sparkman Discussing Clam Biology With Daniel Kuntz and Sarah Haque

Eric Sparkman Discussing Clam Biology With Daniel Kuntz and Sarah Haque

Private Tideland Digs In Hammersley Inlet

Figure 1.  Oakland Bay With Hammersley Inlet Private Tidelands Area Shown By Red Arrow
Figure 1. Oakland Bay With Hammersley Inlet Private Tidelands Area Shown By Red Arrow

During the summer of 2008 Squaxin Island Natural Resources Shellfish employees conducted shellfish population surveys on several privately owned tidelands in Hammersley Inlet (Figure 1).  This area had previously been closed to harvesting due to some form of pollution (see for more information on area closures).  The recently upgraded approved status allowed us to identify the area and determine if a commercial density of clams occurred in this area.


Figure 2.  Green And Red Shaded Areas Indicate Closure Areas For Oakland Bay and Hammersley Inlet

Figure 2. Green And Red Shaded Areas Indicate Closure Areas For Oakland Bay and Hammersley Inlet


Other private Tidelands fall within a pollution closure area and are not safe for commercial harvest and subsequent consumption (Figure 2).  This is why we can harvest clams from some beaches and not from others in this particular area. 

            Harvesting from private tidelands is different than harvesting from areas like Squaxin Island or state held beaches like “the Dikes” or “the Westside”.   While a lot of planning must go into all commercial clam harvests, planning a private tideland dig takes extra work.  In some cases we communicate and coordinate with growers that the tideland owner has hired to “manage” their beach.  Sometimes we coordinate the digs with the owner.  Either way, a lot of planning must go into the event to ensure that all parties are informed.  Squaxin Island Tribe has rights to half of all naturally occurring shellfish on these particular tidelands.  Our goal is to ensure that we harvest our treaty share, while maintaining good relations with homeowners and hired growers.  Private tideland digs are also different because we must treat each private tideland as a separate beach (Figure 3).  Each beach has defined boundaries (property lines), and each tideland has a different available biomass (amount of clams we can harvest). 

Figure 3.  Individual Tidelands Depicted By Yellow Shading
Figure 3. Individual Tidelands Depicted By Yellow Shading

 This is why it is so important that we only dig in certain areas (within marked boundaries) and only dig the predetermined amount of clams on each separate tideland.  Harvesting outside of these boundaries is something we do not want to do, as that action could lead to legal problems for the tribe and ultimately less revenue for the tribe and tribal members.

            Conducting treaty harvests on private tidelands has the potential to be a valuable asset to Squaxin Island Tribe.  As shellfish growing areas become approved within our Usual and Accustom area, we could potentially harvest our treaty share in those areas.  More clam resources equal more revenue for tribal members and that is something we are promoting through these clam digging opportunities.


Shellfish Enhancement Off To A Great Start!

Shellfish enhancement began on Squaxin Island on August 28th, with Manila clam seed being spread on one of our island beaches.  With the recent addition of a new position to lead the enhancement portion of the Shellfish Department, this seeding event  was a successful start for new beach manager Daniel Kuntz.  This enhancement program is funded by the Shellfish Growers Settlement.   Much more Manila clam seeding is planned for this summer and fall.

Manila Clam Seed