Birch Bay Shellfish Protection district

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What is a Shellfish Protection District?

map of Birch BayThe Birch Bay Shellfish Protection District was formed in 2009 by the Whatcom County Council because the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) Chapter 90.72 requires that the county legislative authority create a shellfish protection district within 180 days after the State DOH closes or downgrades a shellfish growing area due to a degradation of water quality as a result of pollution. The purpose of establishing a Shellfish Protection District is to create a forum to address point and non-point sources of pollution that may be affecting water quality over the shellfish beds, with the intent of developing strategies to help restore the areas for shellfish harvesting. The advisory committee, consisting of seven members, is comprised of local citizens, local governments and tribal representatives with an interest in helping to improve the water quality of the harbor and the entire shellfish district. The ultimate goal of the committee is to make improvements to the water quality of the shellfish district to enable the shellfish beds to be re-classified to an approved status.  The Birch Bay Shellfish Protection District encompasses the entire Birch Bay watershed.

The District provides an organized structure for communicating and addressing issues related to shellfish. The interaction between citizens and governmental agencies during committee meetings allows for quicker response to issues and helps to develop a shared commitment to resolving problems.


In 2008, an area around the mouth of Terrell Creek was closed to shellfish harvesting by State DOH due to elevated bacteria levels observed in Terrell Creek.  In response to this downgrade, the Birch Bay Shellfish Protection District was established. 


After the district was established in 2009, an initial closure response strategy was developed as required by RCW 90.72 to address point and non-point source pollution. The strategy identified seven initial actions to begin addressing the pollution problems in the bay. These actions were divided into several basic categories of potential pollution sources:

  • Private sewage treatment systems
  • On-site septic systems
  • Agricultural practices
  • Wildlife and domestic animals

The Birch Bay Shellfish District is working with the Birch Bay Watershed and Aquatic Resources Management District as well as other local groups and agencies to address these various areas of concern.