Tribes want protection for Mystery Bay shellfish

Nordland, Washington (AP) 6-09

Two Olympic Peninsula tribes say federal, state and county officials have failed to protect tribal shellfish beds in Marrowstone Island’s Mystery Bay in violation of treaty rights.

The Jamestown S’Klallam tribe of Blyn and the Port Gamble S’Klallam tribe told federal, state and local agencies in a recent letter they were concerned about the increasing number of boats moored in the bay. Both tribes have commercial shellfish harvesting beds in Mystery Bay.

State health officials are considering reclassifying the shellfish growing area as “prohibited” or “conditional” over concerns that the number of boats and mooring buoys pose a potential pollution problem.

Mystery Bay, about five miles southeast of Port Townsend in Jefferson County, is on the state Health Department’s list of threatened shellfish growing areas.

In their May 21 letter, the tribes noted the situation has gotten worse since 2000 with more boats moored in the bay.


“The state, county and federal governments have completely failed to take any meaningful action to enforce the laws for which they have authority and protect tribal treaty rights from violation,” the letter said.

Ron Charles, Port Gamble S’Klallam tribal chairman, told The Peninsula Daily News, “It’s very troubling when any of the areas in Puget Sound, any of them within our usual accustomed fishing grounds, is in danger of being decertified for harvest of shellfish.”

A county survey conducted in the past year identified 63 buoys with owners.

Bob Woolrich, with the Health Department’s Office of Shellfish and Water Protection, said the problem may be resolved this year with Jefferson County’s help.

Several groups, including state agencies and the Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association, planned an open house Monday night to discuss management of Mystery Bay.

Jefferson County Commissioner David Sullivan and others said they were optimistic the meeting would lead to an interim plan to protect commercial shellfish beds in the bay.

“We respect the tribes and certainly want to ensure that their treaty rights are not violated,” said Jane Chavey, a spokeswoman with the state Department of Natural Resources.