NEAR EDISON, Wash. -- The weather phenomenon known as La Nina has already worn out her welcome with the Northwest shellfish industry.
La Nina is associated with bringing unusually wet weather to her victims and she is living up to the reputation. Heavy rains have moved through the region for the last several months and, when they raise river levels to an established level, state officials automatically close shellfish harvests in problem areas.
That happened again Friday to shellfish operators in Northwest Washington's Samish Bay. Workers with Taylor Shellfish and other harvesters raced to get as many clams and oysters out of the water before the bay was closed due to concerns over bacteria contamination. Heavy rains send a potentially dangerous dose of human and animal waste downstream from farms and communities to Puget Sound. In areas with historic bacterial problems, like Samish Bay, that triggers an automatic five day closure.
Harvesters say that forces them to send home workers and closes them down at one of their busiest times. The Chinese New Year is approaching, which is traditionally a huge market for shellfish.