Article and photos by Kes Tautvydas ’11
Every couple of years since 2011, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has been conducting a monitoring study of toxins released into Puget Sound from storm water runoff and industrial/municipal releases. Mussels are used because they filter water efficiently and thus pick up toxins that might be in the water. This is a big effort requiring the help of volunteers to sort and bag the mussels, and then to deploy them at 96 locations around Puget Sound. After a couple of months in the water, the mussels are retrieved and taken to Olympia where they are analyzed for toxins.
The bagging of mussels is conducted at the Penn Cove Shellfish Farm in Coupeville and takes about 4 days depending on the number of available volunteers. Once again this year WDFW asked SWS for help because this project wouldn’t get off the ground without us. Fortunately, 31 Stewards stepped forward to help produce the 500 bags of mussels needed, but we had to add an extra day of bagging because we couldn’t get enough mussels of the right size in the first two days and on some days we had fewer volunteers than the 6-8 needed for two shifts per day. In spite of some rain and wind the first day of bagging, everyone had a fun time getting to know the project as well as the mussels and the people volunteering.
After letting the mussels recover for a few weeks, the mussels are placed in cages which are deployed in Puget Sound at 0.0’ tide from Oct 27 – Nov 1, including three locations on Whidbey Island. The three locations and the volunteers involved were: Maylor Point at the Naval Air Station in Oak Harbor (Mark Kennedy, Vance Willsey, John Miller); Penn Cove Shellfish Farm (Jamie Hartley, Rich Yukubousky, Kris Holley, Kerry Holland); Possession Point State Park (Paul McElwain, Ron Beier, Kristin Galbreaith, Dave Davis). Deployment on Whidbey Island was completed successfully on a beautiful chilly night Oct 27 at around 10:30 pm.
This is one of the bigger projects Sound Water Stewards can engage in and get to know each other while having fun on the shores of beautiful Whidbey Island. If you missed it this year, don’t despair, you will get another chance in 2021 to participate in the fun.