Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News Group                                Penn Cove Shellfish employee Zane Malloy secures lines on a mussel raft.

Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News Group Penn Cove Shellfish employee Zane Malloy secures lines on a mussel raft.

Mussel farm forced to end Quilcene operation

After nearly 25 years of farming in Quilcene Bay, Penn Cove Shellfish is moving its farming operation out of the Jefferson County waters.

The mussel farm has an application pending with the Army Corps of Engineers to move 10 rafts from the Quilcene farm to its current leased area in Penn Cove.

The change will mean the loss of some production capacity as well as a secondary farming location in the event of closures on harvesting in the cove, as has happened due to red tide, sewer plant malfunctions or an oil spill, owner Ian Jefferds said.

The move wasn’t the company’s first choice, he said.

The lease from the Department of Natural Resources to farm there went up for renewal. A permit from the Army Corps of Engineers was required for the renewal, but the Skokomish Tribe objected to the operation’s presence in the bay, he said.

The shellfish farm wasn’t able to reach an agreement with the tribe and the permit was denied.

Jefferds said representatives from the tribe had stopped negotiations some time in 2018.

Tribal members wanted to exercise rights to fish in the bay, Jefferds said.

Leaders from the Skokomish Tribe did not answer requests for comment by press time.

If the current permit gets accepted, 10 of the 15 rafts there will be towed to the waters on the east side of Whidbey. The units would be arranged to create uniform rows of eight clusters, whereas currently some rows have six clusters and others have eight, Jefferds said. All the clusters will have three rafts instead of two.

The Whidbey operation will likely add six to eight employees, he said.

The farm, which was founded in 1975 in Coupeville, produces and sells millions of mussels, oysters and clams to restaurants and distributors across the nation.

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