Monday, February 25, 2008

Sunshine Daydream

Did last week really happen? Props to the weather gods for giving us Nor'westerners a break. I celebrated over the weekend by taking the kids to the beach, where we did our part to harvest non-native species. Both the Manila clam (Venerupis philippinarum) and the Pacific oyster (Crassostrea gigas) are East Asian bivalves that were introduced into Puget Sound. In fact, the introduction was a twofer: the first Manila clams were imported by accident with Japanese oyster seed early last century.

Though I didn't look too closely, I probably got some native littlenecks (Protothaca staminea) in my limit as well. The littlenecks look similar to the Manilas, with the same crosshatching pattern of concentric rings and radiating ridges on the shell, although they tend to be paler and less oblong in shape, and the tips of their siphons are fused. While the natives are usually buried four or more inches beneath the substrate, the Manilas—with their short siphons—are shallow burrowers ... and we thank them for that. Even a two-year-old can get a limit!

A new yellow sign at the beach warned of the dangers of eating uncooked shellfish. I hate to see these signs. Like the white county signs ("Proposed Land Use") proliferating along the urban-wild interface, nothing good can come of this signage. Every few years, it seems, we have to travel farther afield to find clean beaches and edible shellfish. This particular spot has been our go-to beach for the last year. The view is great, there's plenty of room to spread out, both clams and oysters are available at low tide, and it's open almost year-round. I always bring a couple good beers and a lemon so I can eat a few oysters right off the beach. Today was no different, despite the sign. Vibriosis be damned.

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