The Tulalip Tribes’ Shellfish Program is responsible for the technical management of the Tribes’ shellfish resource opportunity as well as co-management of the marine resources within the Tribes’ usual and accustomed (U&A). This resource includes the waters and habitats of the Salish Sea and include several species of clams, Dungeness crab, multiple species of shrimp and a collection of other marine species of lesser economic value and or abundance. In addition to developing and maintaining records of commercial and non-commercial landings the Shellfish Program conducts studies to assess population/resource abundance, quality of product, condition of population, beach/resource/restoration surveys, and enhancement. The Shellfish Program also reviews shoreline permits, proposed developments and co-manager management practices that may affect the Tribes’ resource and or opportunity. The Shellfish Program works within the Harvest Management section of the Tribes’ Natural Resource Department and works closely with other Tulalip Tribal departments.
Treaty rights regarding shellfish species (U.S. v. Washington Civil No. 9213, Subproc. 89-3) were upheld in 1994 through several Federal Court decisions named the Consent Decree and the Shellfish Implementation Plan. Judge Rafeedie ruled that the tribes have rights to harvest shellfish throughout their usual and accustomed fishing areas, including private tidelands, equal to that of the State of Washington and are co-managers of the State’s shellfish resources. The Tulalip Tribes work cooperatively with the State of Washington, and affected tribes within the Tulalip U&A, to co-manage the shellfish resource. Management agreements and harvest plans are developed in most cases yearly to preserve, protect and perpetuate shellfish resources while providing equal sharing of allowable harvest to both the State and local tribes.
The Shellfish Program conducts several types of biological assessments and fishery monitoring activities to support management goals. Clam population surveys are conducted on Tulalip Tribal properties as well as private and state-owned tidelands cooperatively with the State of Washington and other tribes. This information is used in the assessment and management of the resources. Additional assessments include spot shrimp ovigery sampling as well as catch per unit effort studies, shell-condition assessments of Dungeness crab, multi-cohort investigations of Dungeness crab, geoduck population assessments and economic development studies to assess non-commercial species such as varnish clams and market squid.
The Tulalip Tribes works with local land-owners to access private tidelands as per the Shellfish Implementation Plan for properties local to the Tulalip reservation such as Hat Island, Camano Island and Whidbey. These efforts were initiated in 1996 and continue today. Private property owners may be notified 30 days in advance to a clam or site assessment to conduct a population surveys and aid in the process of establishing a harvest. Clam population surveys are conducted to determine the harvestable amount and the data is shared with the landowner. The sustainable harvestable of clam resources can range between 10% to 25% of the observed biomass and the tribes are entitled to half of this amount. Some resources, in the case of invasive clam species, may be targeted for 100% harvest to support native clam species recovery. Many of the private tidelands are parcels no bigger than 70-feet-wide and a collection of parcels will be combined to better assess the resource. Examples of this are on the north side of Hat Island and if needed a separate survey is conducted on each parcel. Once the harvestable amount is determined, the property owners are notified as to how many pounds will be harvested and when the harvest will occur. The harvest is monitored by Tulalip Fisheries Enforcement and Shellfish Program staff. The total amount of clams harvested is then reported to the tideland owner.