HABs pose threats to human health, and are an increasing threat to the commercial, recreational and subsistence fisheries associated with the Olympic Peninsula. The livelihoods and culture of all coastal communities, tribal and non-tribal, depend on fisheries resources now and for future generations.
The human illness known as amnesic shellfish poisoning (ASP) is caused by eating shellfish neurotoxin. Symptoms include vomiting, nausea, diarrhea and abdominal cramps within 24 hours of ingestion. In more severe cases, neurological symptoms develop within 48 hours and include headache, dizziness, confusion, disorientation, loss of short-term memory, motor weakness, seizures, profuse respiratory secretions, cardiac arrhythmia, coma and possibly death. There is no antidote for domoic acid. Recent research indicates that even low levels of domoic acid exposure may negatively affect unborn children in utero and elderly individuals.
Economic Impact OF HABs:
Washington coastal residents, enjoy access to natural resources, such as shellfish, for a few as an income and others as an recreational activity. In contrast, coastal tribal communities depend on access to these resources for cultural fulfillment, subsistence and in some cases a significant income. HABs are a consistent threat to the commercial, recreational and subsistence fisheries on the coast of Washington.
- The total revenue of farmed bivalves in Washington was nearly $150 million in 2013
- Shellfish aquaculture contributed $184 million to Washington’s economy in 2010
- Washington’s shellfish industry generated 2,710 jobs in 2010
- Washington’s wild harvest shellfishery was valued over $40 million in 2012
- Fisheries are the largest employer in Washington coastal communities
- Tribal Commercial Harvest value
Washington State is one of the most important regions in the US for the harvest of both wild and farmed shellfish (aquaculture) with an approximate annual commercial value near $200 million.
The non-tribal razor clam fishery is primarily harvested in Washington State. The fishery generates on average about 313,000 digger trips to the southwest Washington counties which represents about a $28 million influx of tourist/fisher spending (e.g., motels, food, gasoline, souvenirs, etc). The small commercial razor clam fishery can represent about $1 million in revenue for the tribes in a year with abundant clams. The non-tribal commercial operation in a limited area of Willapa Bay produces razor clams for both human consumption and crab bait with an annual value of around $500,000
Clams, crab, salmon and all of the natural resources the sea provides are vital to the livelihood and culture of Native Americans living on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington. Four coastal treaty tribes, the Hoh , the Makah , Quileute Tribes, and the Quinault Indian Nation are communities that have been linked to the sea for millenia. Each of these tribes are actively involved in monitoring marine waters and shellfish for the presence of biotoxin producing phytoplankton species and the presence of biotoxins in shellfish. They are also participants in ORHAB partnership. These coastal treaty tribes are sovereigns and as such are self governing and develop regulations and co-management plans with state and federal management entities.
The Quinault Indian Nation reservation is a large wedge of the Olympic Peninsula including Lake Quinault and 27 miles of Pacific Ocean coastline south of the Olympic National Park. Their treaty harvest area extends north and south of the reservation coast from Pt. Chehalis, near Westport WA, to Destruction Island in the north near Kalaloch Beach. In the Quinault language, ta’aWshi xa’iits’os means “clam hungry”. Clam hunger is felt by many Quinault people when they can’t harvest Pacific razor clams due to closures from HABs or other reasons. Large middens of razor clam shells, found near the beaches within the Quinault treaty area, are evidence that clam harvest and consumption has been a part of Quinault culture for millennia. Quinault tribal members dig razor clams for subsistence use and also commercially harvest them for retail sale, either for human consumption or Dungeness crab bait. Quinault owns a seafood plant in Taholah, Quinault Pride Seafoods, where razor clams are processed then frozen or canned. The tribe has treaty rights to 50% of the available, harvestable razor clams within their co-managed, treaty area off-reservation and fully manages the harvest of clams on-reservation. The commercial harvest of razor clams is a vital source of supplemental income to tribal members.
The Makah (Kwi-dai-da”chi or “the people who live near the Rocks and the Seagulls”) live on the northwestern tip of the continental U.S., on Cape Flattery at the entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The Makah have relied on the sea for centuries. To this day, this tribe is dependent on shellfish (mussels, clams, scallops) for subsistence and is exploring shellfish aquaculture (mussels and scallops) as a source of income.
The Quileute Tribe and other coastal tribes, including the Hoh and Shoalwater Bay Indian Tribe, also benefit from ORHAB, resulting in greater self-sufficiency and reliance on natural resources.