National Centers of Coastal Ocean Science’s Mussel Watch partnered with the Chugach Tribe of Alaska to evaluate contamination levels in wild shellfish, and results show that those levels appear to be well within safe limits. As part of the study, Mussel Watch established criteria for extending traditional contamination testing to a wide variety of species popular with the Chugach.
Collecting wild shellfish, such as littleneck and razor clams, mussels, and cockles, is a tribal tradition that has been in decline since the Exxon Valdez polluted local waters and made the safety of this resource uncertain. Consequently the tribespeople have avoided wild shellfish which has resulted in a concomitant rise in obesity and diabetes as members have turned to expensive, processed foods.
These studies support a larger effort by the Chugach to revive traditional practices and improve the health of their members.