Aquaculture North America

Features Shellfish
Future of small oyster farmers at risk

The future of oyster growers in Southwest Washington is in question after they were barred from using an insecticide deemed the only practical way of addressing a pest.

Dr Kim Patten, Washington State University Extension horticulturist, made the comment to Capital Press after the Washington Department of Ecology denied the Willapa Grays Harbor Oyster Growers Association the permit to spray 500 acres with the insecticide imidacloprid. Ecology says the pesticide is “too risky for Washington’s environment.”

“I don’t see anything else on the horizon that will work at the level growers consider useful,” Patten told the publication. “One of the real threats is the loss of family farms.”

Patten echoes the sentiments of Willapa Bay shellfish farmer Brian Sheldon. Sheldon earlier told Aquaculture North America that there’s nothing else that works against burrowing shrimp as well as imidacloprid. The pest destroys not the oysters themselves but their habitat.

“We’ve spent many years to find an alternative, everything from mechanical methods where you basically destroy the ground to get to the shrimp and we tried different culturing methods like off-bottom — that will buy you some time but eventually the shrimp density get so large that the structure to support that culture technique fails,” he said.