Hoodsport area to open for shellfish harvesting

The Washington state Department of Health has upgraded its water quality rating for a section of tidelands near Hoodsport in the southern Hood Canal, certifying that clams and oysters there are safe to eat.

Those beaches have been closed to harvesting for 45 years. They are opening after four years of cleanup, according to the Puget Sound Institute at University of Washington Tacoma.

Two public beaches could be opened for recreational harvesting next spring, depending on shellfish quantities and approval from the port, according to the institute.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife credited the Skokomish Tribe for advocating for the project and helping with water-quality sampling, Mason County Public Health for identifying the pollution sources and the Hood Canal Coordinating Council for securing money for the work.

Tribes are entitled to half the naturally produced shellfish found in their traditional areas, according to federal law. The Skokomish tribe began its first oyster harvest in April to estimate shellfish quantities, according to the institute.

Pollution mostly came from eight failing septic systems, including five commercial systems, and public restrooms managed by the Port of Hoodsport, which have been closed.

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