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VIEWPOINT – Jul 2016 – Tess Cooper – Whidbey ECO Net Changes With the Seasons

tessSummer is here; the days are long and the weather is amazing! It is hard not to get out and enjoy the beautiful, natural wonders that Whidbey Island has to offer us. The change in season is always my favorite part of the year. It doesn’t matter which season, the end of one chapter and the fresh beginning of a new is always exhilarating to me. The Whidbey ECO Network finds itself in the middle of a change in season as well. An old chapter is coming to an end and a new chapter is on the horizon.

Whidbey ECO Network (ECO Net) is an umbrella network made up of members from many local organizations and individuals dedicated to protecting the environment and recovering the vital functions of Puget Sound. “ECO” stands for Education, Communication, and Outreach. Through their combined efforts the members of ECO Net reach out and affect change within our local community in many ways. Through forest planning, manure management, water quality monitoring, shoreline restoration, salmon recovery, outdoor education and special events, we promote good stewardship of our land and waters.

Some of our most notable accomplishments over the past few years include the Earth Day Green Career Fair at South Whidbey High School; a Social Marketing Project with Livestock Owners in Maxwelton Valley; K-12 Educator Involvement and Alignment with Next Generation Science Standards, planning and participation in Whidbey Earth and Ocean Month; Science While Sipping/Pub Talks; as well as many training and professional development opportunities for our members in topics such as social marketing, volunteer management, project design & evaluation, and how to use social media to promote your organization.

Previously, funding and support for ECO Net was provided by the Puget Sound Partnership, a State agency that was formed to protect Puget Sound, however due to funding changes this relationship was terminated on June 30th, 2016. The good news is that the ECO Net members are dedicated to providing these services to our community and have vowed to preserve the Whidbey ECO Network organization! Yes, we will continue to work together as environmental stewards of this great Island. So keep an eye out for us! We will be working in the coming months to locate new funding sources, strengthen our mission and vision as an independent organization, and recruit new members to help sustain our efforts! We urge you to become involved – Visit our website and Calendar of Events at

Please join me, as we close the old chapter, in extending sincere gratitude to the Puget Sound Partnership for the amazing opportunities and support they provided us over the years; and, to Justin Burnett of Whidbey News Group for the chance to share our organization with the community through this monthly column.

And lastly, an enthusiastic round of applause to Susie Richards, our fearless leader and dedicated ECO Net Coordinator for the past two years! As I take over leadership of Whidbey ECO Net I look forward to all of the exciting new adventures and partnerships that will come our way. The new chapter will begin in the fall with our regularly scheduled meeting at the Pacific Rim Institute. Please feel free to contact me Tess Cooper, the next ECO Net Coordinator, with questions or for information about Whidbey ECO Net at

VIEWPOINT – May 2016 – Maribeth Crandell – Island County Health

Safer Shellfish Harvesting
Maribeth Crandell

Warm weather brings out the sun bathers, sailors and clam diggers. Don’t forget the sunscreen, the life preservers and for clam diggers, call this number 1-800-562-5632. It’s the safe shellfish hotline. Or you can go online to use this clickable map to find out if the beach is safe for shellfish harvesting.

I manage the shellfish program for Island County Public Health and work closely with the State. You’ll find us sharing a booth at the Penn Cove Water Festival on May 14. We use a watershed model with little houses, roads, cars and livestock. Kids help us sprinkle colored powder on the model and then squirt water on it to illustrate that when it rains our car oil, livestock manure, leaky septic systems and fertilizers run off of our roads, yards and fields to the nearest water body. These pollutants will compromise water quality and shellfish safety. Our efforts to pick-up after our pets, inspect our septic systems, manage manure and maintain our vehicles, pays off in water quality.

If you’re interested in digging shellfish to eat make sure you harvest from a safe location. Avoid shoreline communities that have septic systems, storm water outfall pipes, waste water treatment plants and marinas.

The Washington Department of Health has people like me all over Puget Sound collecting water and shellfish samples from designated sites and sending them to a lab for testing. I used to wade out to a certain barnacle encrusted rock to collect a bag of mussels every 2 weeks. Even at low tide the water came up over my rubber boots and nipped at my shorts as I approached. It was one of my favorite work assignments. The samples were tested for biotoxins that can cause Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning, Diarrhetic Shellfish Poisoning and Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning. All of these can make you sick, cause permanent damage or even death. You cannot cook or freeze it out of the meat.

Symptoms from these biotoxins vary. One local who’d experienced PSP told me it felt like his teeth were floating. He compared it with going to the dentist and getting a shot of novocaine. His extremities went numb. It can result in difficulty breathing and needs immediate medical attention. Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning can cause permanent short term memory loss, brain damage and even death. Diarrhetic Shellfish Poisoning, can be embarrassing and very inconvenient, as you can imagine. Heed any signs posted at the beach and check out this website for the latest biotoxin reports from the Department of Health so you “know before you go” .

During a hot spell Vibrio parahaemolyticus can sometimes be found, mostly in oysters. Vibrio can make you sick but it’s easily avoidable. When harvesting shellfish, go in the cool morning hours, ice them immediately and then cook them thoroughly.

Now that you have the hotline number and clickable map, you’re ready to head out for safer shellfish harvesting. If you have any questions about local shellfish call me at 360-678-7914.

As a member for the Whidbey ECO-Net, Education, Communication and Outreach Network, Island County Public Health works collaboratively with several local organizations to protect water quality on Whidbey Island. Visit our webpage to find out about events sponsored by ECO-Net organizations.