|Swinomish youth tend to a clam garden in British Columbia, learning the ancient practice for generations to come. Photo credit: J. Barber|
The Fisheries Department and the Community Environmental Health Program are collaborating on a community-based biocultural restoration project to revive the ancient Indigenous mariculture practice of clam gardening on the Swinomish Reservation.
Clam gardens are cultural modifications (e.g., moving and clearing rocks, building small rock walls to create terraces in the tide flats) made by Northwest Coastal Indigenous people to optimize clam production and increase species diversity. Ecological studies have documented significantly higher clam densities and greater biomass in historic clam gardens compared to unmodified beaches.
Clam gardens are also adaptable to sea level rise and have a high concentration of shell fragments that can improve habitat conditions as oceans acidify. Our multi-year project is a climate adaptation strategy that directly addresses a suite of community concerns identified in the SITC Climate Adaptation Action Plan.
In 2020, we completed a socio-ecological site selection process that included the following: a spatial exclusion map, 15 intertidal surveys, a multicriteria decision analysis, and community intercept surveys. The Swinomish Tribal Senate and Fish and Game Commission approved a location for clam garden installation on Kiket Island that was selected by the community. A long-term monitoring study has been initiated to assess both environmental changes to the nearshore and socio-cultural impacts as the clam garden practice is restored. The community began to build the clam garden in August 2022 and will continue to tend these special tidelands for generations to come.
For further information, please watch this video.
Indigenous Aquaculture Collaborative Network
As part of our clam garden work, we also participate in the Indigenous Aquaculture Collaborative Network, a collective of Northwest Tribes, First Nations, Native Hawaiian communities, partnering organizations, and Sea Grant Programs across Washington, British Columbia, Alaska, Hawaii, and other places throughout the Pacific.
Our goal is to strengthen community access to traditional foods, revive the community’s relationship with ancient Indigenous practices, and develop solutions for coastal restoration.
You can learn more about this network at indigenousaquaculture.org
Funding for aspects of this work was provided by SITC, Bureau of Indian Affairs Rights Protection Implementation, Climate Change Program, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (PA-00J99101, PA-01J76801), Washington Sea Grant (NA19OAR4170387, NA18OAR4170095, NA18OAR4170095 16), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NA21NMF4270364), Northwest Climate Adaptation Science Center FY21 Grant.