The industry has asked Congress for help replumbing hatcheries and developing monitoring systems to track upwelling events and the quality of incoming seawater. Without intervention, its economic contribution to the region could drop another 30 percent just this year, said Robin Downey, director of the Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association.
So far in 2009, hatcheries have been able to improve production because of fewer upwelling events. Combined with new piping and technology, oyster production could stabilize before consumers notice a change.
But without major changes in the marine environment, small operators who count entirely on nature, like Sheldon, will likely continue to struggle. "I hope you have your fingers crossed for us," he said.
He wants desperately to pass his business to his son, so he plans to keep on hunting for oysters.
But now he'll do so with one eye trained on the coast's north winds.
Information from: The Seattle Times