Aquaculture has been part of the Pacific Northwest landscape for thousands of years. It plays an important food producing role in our culture and is critically important to native peoples and to the economies of many coastal communities.

What is aquaculture?

Aquaculture is the culture or farming of fish, shellfish, or other aquatic plants and animals. It occurs in all types of water bodies – from lakes and streams to Puget Sound and the coast – and includes restoring, planting, growing, harvesting, transporting and selling fish, shellfish and aquatic plants.

Aquaculture can be both commercial and non-commercial. Examples include:

  • Commercial marine finfish net pens and non-profit small acclimation pens
  • Commercial oyster, clam and geoduck operations
  • Recreational shellfish harvesting on state beaches
  • Research and restoration projects
  • Rearing of fish, shellfish and aquatic plants for personal consumption.

There is a dynamic and viable commercial industry in Washington, and methods and processes are constantly evolving. The policy, regulatory and scientific landscape for aquaculture also continues to evolve – especially for shellfish aquaculture.

Ecology's role

Ecology’s role includes protecting and restoring Washington’s valuable aquatic resources for future generations. We work closely with our government and non-government partners to better understand the relationship between aquaculture and the natural environment as well as neighboring communities. Ecology uses science as a foundation for aquaculture policies and regulations. We are committed to wisely managing this water-dependent use to ensure food and healthy waters are available for future generations, and doing so in an environmentally responsible way.

Shellfish Aquaculture

Bivalves coming from Washington’s cool clean waters are prized by residents and others around the world. Commercial shellfish operations are regulated at the federal, state and local levels.
> MORE about shellfish aquaculture

Net Pen Aquaculture

Ecology is one of several state and federal agencies with a policy and regulatory role in net pen aquaculture. Two main types of net pens exist in Washington – commercial net pens raising Atlantic salmon for market, and enhancement net pens raising native salmon for release into the wild.
> MORE about net pen aquaculture

Geoduck Aquaculture

The state legislature passed SSHB 2220 in 2007 relating to shellfish aquaculture. The bill created an advisory committee, commissioned a series of research projects by Sea Grant, directed Ecology to develop Shoreline Master Program Guidelines for geoduck siting and operations, and directed the Department of Fish and Wildlife to expand information required for aquatic farm registration.
> MORE about geoduck aquaculture

Non-Native Eelgrass: Zostera japonica

To better understand the effects of this invasive aquatic plant on aquaculture and the state’s role in managing it, five state agencies hosted a meeting on June 18-19, 2013: The Science and Management of Zostera japonica in Washington.
> MORE about non-native eelgrass



Shellfish Safety Hotline (Washington State Department of Health)

Shellfish Aquaculture Debris Hotline (Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association)

Aquaculture Chapter of SMP Handbook

Washington Shellfish Initiative Phase II

Coastal Atlas

Governor's Office for Regulatory Innovation & Assistance