We urge the public to learn along with us, and to keep an open mind about aquaculture and about the use of net pens as a growing technique. Like any technology, it can be done well or poorly.

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As a sovereign native nation whose ancestors retained our rights to resources when they signed the Point No Point Treaty in 1855, the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe places the utmost importance on the human impacts on natural resources.

The abundance of fish that once provided for us is no longer available naturally. Since the early 1900s, propagating native fin and shellfish from larvae has been a successful method for augmenting natural populations in our area as conditions (including loss of habitat and commercial over-harvesting) have changed. Tribes, Washington state and private parties have all turned to aquaculture to increase populations and harvest.

Much of the fish eaten worldwide is farmed. The question is whether we want to import fish from countries where farmed seafood is unregulated, or whether we want to use the best that science and technology have to offer in order to grow fish safely and sustainably in our own country. All food production impacts the environment. The key is understanding and mitigating those impacts in order to keep the environment clean and productive.

We are a 21st-century tribe. We believe in economic development, and we intend to protect our culture and our treaty rights. We do our due diligence before we commit to any project, always looking to protect the environment while working to become more self-sufficient as a tribal nation. We believe that growing fin and shellfish safely and sustainably is possible, and as good stewards of our lands and waters, that is what we intend to continue doing.

Jamestown Seafood’s Point Whitney Ventures LLC is spawning and growing oyster and geoduck seed, and seeding the Sequim Bay tidelands for commercial and subsistence harvest. This work is possible because of the restoration work that we did more than 10 years ago in the Jimmycomelately Creek and Estuary. In lower Dungeness and Dungeness Bay, we have been working for decades with Clallam County and Clallam Conservation District to improve water quality. We have achieved significant improvements, with hundreds of acres having a shellfish harvest classification upgrade.

We research and monitor the impacts of all that we do to assure that we do no harm to the environment as we pursue methods of producing the fin and shellfish that are a part of our Salish culture. For example, we monitor water quality and quantity in terms of such issues as stormwater, algae blooms, ocean acidification, impacts of septic systems, irrigation and wells. And then we act on what we find, to clean up and sustain healthy ecosystems.

Most recently, we have begun a pilot project on farmed black cod (Anoplopoma fimbria, also known as sablefish). Working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service, and the University of Washington, we have spent the past year gaining a better understanding of how to spawn and grow this native species for market. The once-abundant and highly sought-after species has dwindled in numbers in Puget Sound, and we believe that farming it may provide us with an economically-viable business model in the future. In order to determine whether this is true, we recently applied for and were awarded a three-year Washington SeaGrant to fund further study.

We intend to explore the pros and cons of many issues related to growing black cod — land-based vs. open-water farming sites; the best food formulation for this species; whether there is a species (like sea cucumber) that we might co-locate beneath the black-cod pens that might feed on their detritus and provide us with a second marketable product.

We urge the public to learn along with us, and to keep an open mind about aquaculture, and about the use of net pens as a growing technique. Like any technology, it can be done well or poorly. Like everything else we do, we intend to do aquaculture well, or not to do it at all.