Willapa Bay could grow the official state oyster
Washington has an official bird, an official flower, even an official tall ship. Sen. Brian Hatfield is leading the charge to create an official oyster.
Hatfield, D-Raymond, is the prime sponsor of a bill that would designate the Ostrea lurida as the official oyster of Washington .
“This is an opportunity to shed some light on an industry that is a huge economic driver to southwest Washington,” said Hatfield. “Willapa Bay oysters are known the world over and are responsible for hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in Washington’s economy.“
Sometimes called the Olympia oyster, the oyster is native to the Pacific Northwest. Along with being part of the state’s thriving shellfish industry, the oyster also acts as a natural ocean filter, ingesting and cleaning between nine and 12 quarts of sea water per day.
In addition to drawing attention to the state’s shellfish industry, the discussion of a state oyster also sheds light on the challenges facing the industry, Hatfield says. Ocean acidification is an ongoing threat to the waters of Willapa Bay, as are invasive grasses and competing species of shellfish.
“It would be devastating to southwest Washington to turn our back on the threats the shellfish industry is weathering. Yet, those threats may not be apparent to those who do not live and work on the shores of Washington’s coastline,” said Hatfield. “…if lawmakers in Olympia become aware of that threat because we are pushing for the oyster designation, I’m happy.”
Hatfield’s inspiration for the bill did not come from an industry lobbyist or a community petition, but rather from Olympia teenager Claire Thompson, a student at Nova Middle School. Thompson urged Hatfield to propose the bill as part of a school project and to bring attention to threats facing sea life.
“It’s so wonderful to see a young person work so passionately for something like this,” said Hatfield. “I hope Claire’s work on this bill sets an example to all young men and women that they can make their mark on Washington state.”