The cost and availability of safe, healthy food is an issue that has begun bringing together Tribal and non-Tribal people in the San Juan Islands. Inequities have increased as a result of an influx of “Covid refugees” raising land prices and closing shoreline harvesting sites. Climate change is meanwhile threatening the remaining public-access areas for shellfish and seaweed harvesting. Discussions with Tribal cultural people, food-program leaders and other islanders prioritized the negotiation of “access agreements” on private tidelands that would allow scheduled, supervised harvesting dates for responsible families, and scientific oversight to ensure sustainability as well as food safety. Kwiaht proposes a pilot project to develop and implement 5-10 agreements with private tideland owners in the San Juan Islands, and educate an initial cohort of Tribal and non-Tribal harvesters in how they can help protect and maintain these clam “gardens” as conditions change in the near future.
Food security and water quality are inextricably linked through clams and other shellfish growing in the nearshore. While the immediate focus of this project is advancing food equity, building an organized constituency for “clean clams” in the San Juan Islands will help advance water quality in the longer term. Kwiaht scientists will ensure that threats to water quality are addressed in the documentation for each harvest-access sites; in particular, the growing frequency of toxic algal blooms that result from warming waters and nutrient-rich rain runoff.