Our mission is to protect the habitat of Puget Sound tidelands from the underregulated expansion of new and intensive shellfish aquaculture methods. These methods were never anticipated when the Shoreline Management Act was passed. They are transforming the natural tideland ecosystems in Puget Sound and are resulting in a fractured shoreline habitat. In South Puget Sound much of this has been done with few if any meaningful shoreline permits and with limited public input. It is exactly what the Shoreline Management Act was intended to prevent.

Get involved and contact your elected officials to let them you do not support aquaculture's industrial transformation of Puget Sound's tidelands.

Governor Inslee: https://fortress.wa.gov/es/governor/
Legislative and Congressional contacts:

Additional information
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/protectourshore
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ProtectOurShoreline

Thursday, October 20, 2016

October 25 - Mason County: Shoreline Master Program Update to be Heard By County Commissioners

October 25, 6:30PM
411 N 5th St., Shelton
First Commissioner hearing of the Shoreline Master Program update
(Click here to view Mason County's SMP webpage, now updated and working)

A dormant volcano is still a volcano, right?

What being involved in regulatory oversight can get you - an open door to little to no oversight of aquaculture in Mason County. PVC pipe, nets, cages, bags, operations at midnight, shoreline damage from wakes of overloaded vessels, all may be given a free pass in Mason County.

Contained within the County's long delayed Shoreline Master Program update is one line in a paragraph, inserted at the last moment, with the urging of Taylor Shellfish's Bill Dewey and approved by the Planning Advisory Commission members present. They included Bill Dewey, Vicki Wilson with Aracadia Point Seafood, Kevin Shutty (currently running for County Commissioner), and Tim Duffy (now resigned from the Planning Commission).

That line reads:

Dormant areas [of aquaculture] include property that was acquired under the Bush or Callow acts of 1895;

The line is contained within the following paragraph defining what "existing aquaculture" includes, and reads:
Existing aquaculture activities include areas that are actively cultivated and/or dormant. Dormant areas include property that was acquired under the Bush or Callow acts of 1895; areas undergoing crop rotation; and areas dormant due to market conditions, seed or juvenile availability, past and current pest infestations or control issues, water quality issues, and other cultivation factors beyond the control of the operator. Existing or permitted aquaculture operations are not subject to Section 17.50.055(H), [now 17.50.120] Existing uses and Structures, and shall not be considered nonconforming or abandoned. Ongoing maintenance, harvest, replanting, restocking or changing the culture technique or species cultivated for any existing or permitted aquaculture activity shall not require shoreline review or a new permit, unless or until:...
Because the well crafted line defines "existing" as simply holding a deed to tidelands sold 100+ years ago, on which nothing has occurred, which in many cases were tidelands abandoned and made part residential developments, any form of aquaculture may be developed without requiring a permit. Is there any better example of why being involved in the political process is important?

Get involved. Tell Mason County Commissioners, current and those potentially being elected, these structures in the tidelands need permits just like any other developments along the shorelines do. Holding a deed is not the equivalent of proof that an existing activity occurred.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

October 17 - Hearing of an appeal of an environmental decision on a geoduck operation proposed by Taylor Shellfish

Update 10/14: Comments on the SEPA approval should be emailed to protectzanglecove@gmail.com for submission at Monday's hearing. Get involved.

Thurston County: Zangle Cove

October 17 a hearing on an appeal of an environmental decision approving a geoduck operation in Puget Sound's environmentally sensitive Zangle Cove will be held. The hearing begins at 10AM with legal presentations taking place between 10 and 2, and public comments scheduled for 3 [Note: Meetings sometimes run longer, sometimes shorter.] The examiner will hear from attorneys representing those who feel the decision did not fully consider all of the environmental impacts this operation will have and attorneys who feel there is no problem with the continued expansion of PVC tubes in Puget Sound.

Location: Heritage Hall, Expo Center - 3054 Carpenter Rd SE, Lacey
(Agenda and map of hearing's location may be found here: 
Full information on the permit and documents submitted may be found here:
Comments may be mailed to: peterscs@co.thurston.wa.us 
or to Thurston County Commissioners: http://www.co.thurston.wa.us/bocc/

For additional information and how you can help, see:

Monday, October 10, 2016

Burley Lagoon: Pierce County Issues Decision on Taylor Shellfish 25 acre Geoduck Farm

Burley Lagoon's marine habitat 
should not be converted to
an industrial operation.

Pierce County has issued a Public Notice on its decision regarding a proposal by Taylor Shellfish to populate 25.5 acres in Burley Lagoon with over 1,000,000 PVC or mesh tubes, possibly covered with predator nets, needed in order to grow geoduck for the Chinese market. A "determination of significance" was issued due to the probable adverse impacts from an operation of such magnitude in an enclosed body of water. As a result an Environmental Impact Statement will be required. Pierce County is asking for comments on the scope of coverage by November 8 (click here for Public Notice and instructions on how to submit comments).

A 25 acre transformation of critical
marine habitat - for China.
Good for China. Bad for Puget Sound.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Here Come the Chinese: Lust for Big Clams Brings Largest Shellfish Facility on the West Coast

Hummingbird Cove Shellfish Hatchery
Small bird, big hatchery, big numbers, big impact.

365,000 square feet:  A lot of space costs a lot to produce big clams in big numbers.
The Powell River Peak writes about a Chinese aquaculture firm, Pacific Aquaculture, which has followed the path set by Chinese energy firms who have invested in the west and elsewhere to ensure a steady supply of carbon based fuels far into the future. Pacific Aquaculture has currently invested $10 million in a shellfish hatchery which opened on the 19th. They plan to invest an additional $40 million over the next five years to create a shellfish facility which, at 365,000 square feet, will dwarf anything on the west coast, or most likely in the world. The project, in conjunction with Hummingbird Cove Lifestyles, was first described in Hatchery International in October of last year but was then far smaller.

US Shellfish Companies: Now just
big clams in a little tank?

We used to be the big clams here
In comparison to Pacific Aquacutlure's 365,000 square foot facility, Taylor Shellfish - purported to be the largest shellfish producer in the United States - has a hatchery on Dabob Bay estimated to be 30,000 square feet in size. Production facilities in Shelton are estimated at 27,000 square feet, with those at Samish Bay being estimated at 9,000 square feet. As noted, Pacific Aquacutlure's will be 365,000 square feet.

Aloha from Goose Point Oyster in Hawaii.
We'll always have the condo.
20,000 square feet is big?

Is that Aloha a hello or goodbye to profits in the shellfish industry?
Unlike the Taylor hatchery in Dabob Bay being able to adapt to what is currently felt to be problems caused by ocean acidification, the Nisbet family's Goose Point Oyster simply scaled back their "Whiskey Creek" hatchery facility in Willapa Bay and built a new 20,000 square foot facility in Hawaii. As the article in the Seattle Times notes,  only a handful of hatcheries supply West Coast farmers, including Whiskey Creek and Taylor Shellfish. With a facility now in operation, which at 365,000 square feet will dwarf anything on the west coast, flooding the market with shellfish seed, including geoduck, how long can the profits in the shellfish industry be expected to last?

They said I'd make money. Why should I care?

I never promised you a shellfish garden.
Because shellfish companies no longer have tidelands to use, they lease tidelands from private individuals and promise "great" returns in exchange for encumbering their property, in some cases for decades. Any concerns about their role in the creation of these point sources of plastic pollution, loose nets, and fractured tideland ecosystems, along with fractured relationships with neighbors, many nurtured over generations, are diminished by the salve made from promises of monetary cream being rubbed onto these tideland owners' palms. The Chinese, however, through Pacific Aquaculture, will no longer be beholden to shellfish companies in the northwest supplying artificially constrained supplies, and inflated prices, of geoduck. Revenues will drop and the gravy train will stop. As investments in energy failed when supply overtook demand, so too will investments - and promises of riches - in the shellfish industry fail when oversupply drives prices down and the Chinese are able to supply themselves with geoduck. Leaving behind plastic tubes and structures, as Drakes Bay Oyster Company did when they walked away from Drakes Estero, leaving the taxpayers to clean up the remains.

Chinese do not like 
paying artificially inflated prices
for geoduck so will grow their own.

Sorry, I don't think that was part of the permit.
Who will pick up what's left behind when companies are no longer profitable? This bubble is no different than any bubble which has preceeded it. It will pop. Pacific Aquaculture is a big pin with a strong hand pressing on the bubble. And when it pops, Puget Sound will be left with PVC, nets, and plastic to cleanup.

Get involved. 
Demand that bonds be required for all shellfish farms currently permitted to guarantee Puget Sound is not left in the state Drakes Estero was when Drakes Bay Oyster Company decided it was best to just walk away, leaving taxpayers to pick up the mess.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

September 13, 1PM: Army Corps' Update on Regulatory Oversight

Update September 13: In January, Bill Dewey with Taylor Shellfish and Vicki Wilson inserted an absurd definition of what an "existing" aquaculture activity is into the proposed SMP update for Mason County. They defined an existing activity as being any tidelands sold in Washington under the 1895 Bush and Callow Act. Even if nothing was planted over 120 years ago. Politics pays and profits flow.

Paving a Fallow Brick Road 
With PVC and Plastic

Contact, by Monday afternoon, for Web and/or audio participation on September 13
Patricia Graesser, Public Affairs Chief
phone: (206) 764-3760

Where are we and how did we get down this road?
September 13 the Army Corps of Engineers will hold a meeting to discuss their current situation as it relates to regulating the shellfish industry in Washington. A similar meeting was held on April 20 (click here for a pdf overview of that meeting).

The preliminary agenda is as follows:
1:00 p.m. Welcome By Col. John Buck, District Commander, Seattle District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
1:05 p.m. Brief overview of the Corps aquaculture regulatory program
1:15 p.m. Update on ongoing activities:
Status of the programmatic Endangered Species Act consultation for shellfish activities in Washington
Permit tools for 2017
Upcoming milestones and opportunities for involvement

• 1:45 p.m. Questions & Answers
• 2:45 p.m. Closing Remarks

Politics pays - and when you have lots of money it helps move the process in your direction
Related to the ongoing Army Corps' oversight of this industry which wishes to greatly expand its footprint in Puget Sound and elsewhere are Biological Opinions released by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). In 2015 the Corps asked each to provide their opinions on information provided to them by the Corps, in turn largely provided by the shellfish industry, on whether acres of aquaculture proposed and anticipated would have an impact on Puget Sound's habitat and species of concern.

Zangle Cove: Fallow or never planted?
Not "historically used for aquaculture" as claimed
in a permit application for a new geoduck farm.

Fallow me down the golden brick road
A summary document explaining the past history, which in part exemplifies the challenges with gathering information from the shellfish industry, may be found by clicking here. One of the primary issues relates back to 2007 permits which included ‘areas that are periodically allowed to lie fallow as part of normal operations’ in the public notice. This gaping door left open, by not defining what "fallow" means, was taken full advantage of by the industry, claiming huge numbers of acres not planted currently were simply lying fallow, implying they had been used at some undefined time in the past. Current proposals for the Nationwide permits call for defining "fallow" as tidelands not having been planted for as long as 100 years. As seen below, this has led the Corps to believe over 14,000 acres not planted were not done so simply because they were "fallow".

Put on the BiOp focals to review the opinions
Currently, "fallow" areas are included in the information presented to FWS and NMFS, asking them to rely on that information and to issue opinions on what the Corps should do. Those Biological Opinions are located here:
Click here for NMFS Biological Opinion
Click here for FWS Bilogical Opinion

You're going to need these to get through those opinions.

Read along with me and get involved
Currently the Corps is in the process of reviewing the opinions submitted by FWS and NMFS. As it is unknown at this time whether any changes or refusals to accept what each say it is best not to comment. But what is clear is the Corps and services have been put under immense political pressure to help promote this industry. Good intentions can get lost when politics get involved. Hoping for the best when industry is driving a process will not result in the best interests of the public. Get involved. The shellfish industry is and what they want is not good for Puget Sound and species dependent on the integrity of its habitat.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Final Reminder: Help Protect Willapa Bay's Habitat for the Threatened Green Sturgeon

It is not time to relax habitat preservation for a species in the process of rebuilding its population. Make a difference and get involved.
Reminder: Comments on Green Sturgeon Habitat Due Sept. 6

Retain all of Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor
as critical habitat for the threatened Green Sturgeon

Comment here by September 6: 

Read Pubic Notice here: 

Become engaged in the public process. Tell NMFS and NOAA you support Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor being retained, with no exclusions, as critical habitat for the Green Sturgeon. Shellfish growers do have alternative methods of growing oysters and do not need to spray pesticides onto shellfish beds to kill a native primary food source (burrowing shrimp) for this endangered species.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Reminder: Comments on Green Sturgeon Habitat Due Sept. 6

Retain all of Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor
as critical habitat for the threatened Green Sturgeon

Comment here by September 6: 

Read Pubic Notice here: 

Become engaged in the public process. Tell NMFS and NOAA you support Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor being retained, with no exclusions, as critical habitat for the Green Sturgeon. Shellfish growers do have alternative methods of growing oysters and do not need to spray pesticides onto shellfish beds to kill a native primary food source (burrowing shrimp) for this endangered species.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Willapa Bay - Critical Habitat for Endangered Green Sturgeon: Study supports longline oyster growing method and retaining all of Willapa Bay as critical habitat

Willapa Bay: Critical Habitat for Green Sturgeon
Burrowing Shrimp: Critical food source

Kim Patten, WSU with longlines

Get involved. The Department of Commerce through NOAA/NMFS are performing a "regulatory review" of listings, one of which includes listing Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor as critical habitat for the endangered southern Green Sturgeon. Comments must be submitted by September 6 and must be done in writing or through the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. 
Comment here by September 6: 

Read Pubic Notice here: 

Tell NMFS and NOAA you support Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor being retained, with no exclusions, as critical habitat for the Green Sturgeon. Shellfish growers do have alternative methods of growing oysters and do not need to spray pesticides onto shellfish beds to kill a primary food source for this endangered species.

Willapa Bay: Critical Habitat for Green Sturgeon, a
threatened/endangered species under the 
United States Endangered Species Act.

Change is hard - stop living in your father's shadow and make a difference.
A study by Kim Patten with Washington State University has shown strong support for the use of the longline ("off bottom") method to grow oysters in beds which have burrowing shrimp in Willapa Bay. Willapa Bay was listed in 2009 as critical habitat for the endangered southern distinct population (SDP) of the Green Sturgeon, once far more abundant. Unlike salmon who pass through this important estuary on their way to the open ocean, the Green Sturgeon relies "...heavily on estuarine habitats over their lifespans." (from 2009 listing) Included is reliance on burrowing shrimp as a food source.

Damien Schiff
Tried to get the southern resident Orca
de-listed as an endangered species.
PLF - a danger to the 
endangered species act

2009 Habitat Listing Challenged by Pacific Legal Foundation
Earlier this year the Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) asked the Supreme Court to review whether regulators had the discretion to determine whether to not exclude areas from being considered critical habitat. The court ruled those decisions are not subject to judicial review. It is unlikely the Supreme Court will consider Mr. Damien's case during the Long Conference, scheduled for September 26. (see here for PLF's response brief)

Not to Exclude is still discretionary.
While not involved in the lawsuit, in comments to NMFS on the then proposed 2009 decision, shellfish growers in Willapa Bay did ask for shellfish beds to be excluded from being considered critical habitat during the comment period. In response to that request, the National Marine Fisheries Services responded:
"Telemetry data show that tagged green sturgeon disperse widely throughout these estuaries, most likely for foraging. In addition, anecdotal accounts have noted observations of sturgeon in intertidal aquaculture beds in the past, likely when populations of sturgeon were more abundant in these estuaries."
 Sturgeons like long lines and shrimp beds.

Can oyster growers, an endangered species, and that species' food source co-exist?
According to Mr. Patten's recently published study, yes. His study finds an abundance of "foraging pits" in areas using longlines to grow oysters with burrowing shrimp >10/square meter. In fact, it was only in areas with no shellfish activity the forage pits were in greater density. Further, in a study published in 2007, it noted that "... these large predators [Green Sturgeon] may have performed an important top down control function on shrimp populations in the past when they were more abundant."

Bad conclusion to a good study - there is not a "surplus of foraging habitat". There are lower numbers of Green Sturgeon. It's why they're endangered.
As highlighted in the comments quoted above, sturgeon used to be more abundant. So much so one of the studies believes Green Sturgeon may have both played an important role in controlling shrimp populations and, contrary to Mr. Patten's observations, included shellfish beds in their foraging (something which would seem to support the grower's statement that shellfish beds improve the habitat). One of the stressors which reduced their population has been the past use of the pesticide Carbaryl by shellfish growers. Loss of spawning habitat and over-fishing no doubt also played roles as well. But the important point is the population of Green Sturgeon is not what is was. That is why there appears to be a "surplus of foraging habitat" and, more importantly, why they are considered endangered.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Imidacloprid in Willapa Bay: Public Relations Effort to Spray Pesticides in Willapa Bay Begins

"Abandon ship!"
Did you have that boat inspected
before you bought it?

Easier to give up than change.
The Chinook Observer has published an article on why Goose Point Oyster (owned by the Nisbet family) is in desperate need to spray imidacloprid onto one of its Willapa Bay oyster beds. With a picture of their farm manager seeming to sink into a pool of quicksand, Dave Nisbet tells a story of why they are abandoning a parcel near the mouth of the Cedar River, done in by a 2" shrimp. Tidelands which were part of a $1.9 million transaction in 2015 which, had they been inspected, may have shown them to be incompatible with Goose Point's growing technique. And perhaps why tidelands at the mouth of a river with clear cut logging within its watershed may not have the firmest sediments.

Good shrimp, bad shrimp
Good duck, bad duck
Geoduck farming's "happy side": ecosystem services?

"Psst - I think we're giving a mixed message here."
Ironically, the Pacific Shellfish Grower's Association chose to show a diver harvesting geoduck feeding one of the dreaded shrimp to a Scoter, declaring the picture of what they consider to be two of their "pests" the winner of June's ecosystem system photo contest. The winged "pest" is kept off of shellfish beds - and away from the burrowing shrimp - by nets and hazing. Shellfish growers propose to rid the burrowing shrip - the clawed pest - by spraying the pesticide imidacloprid onto the oyster beds, hoping a permit application from the Willapa Grays Harbor Oyster Growers Association (WGHOGA) will be approved by the Department of Ecology. Editorials claim it doesn't kill the shrimp, it just "only makes them susceptible to suffocation." Kind of like propofol and benzodiazepine made Michael Jackson only go into a really really really deep sleep. (See a copy of what the shellfish industry considers to be "pests" by clicking here.)
Good eelgrass, bad eelgrass
It's a weed. No, it's a support.

Irony becomes steely
In the Chinook article, the irony continues to grow as the article points out that on the eastern side of the parcel eelgrass provides "...a support system of roots under the surface that allows oysters to sit above the mud during high tide." This would be eelgrass which WGHOGA, in some cases, is currently spraying with the herbicide imazamox. To be fair, it is not clear whether the eelgrass referred to is the native or non-native. But it is clear Goose Point's Mr. Nisbet speaks highly of the "economic services" it provides to his ability to grow oysters. Not mentioned were the other species which benefit from its ecosystem services.

"Get out of my way
and let me do what I want,
how I want, when I want."

Trust us, we're oyster growers and Willapa Bay is not what you think. We aren't either.
In a follow-up Chinook Observer editorial titled "Get out of the way and let oyster growers survive", the public relations push evolves further. In the editorial, Governor Inlsee is described as throwing oyster growers "under the bus in order to notch a symbolic win for environmental purity." Those who believe Washington shellfish can be - in fact should be - grown in unpolluted waters are "urban activists" standing in the way of oyster growers wanting to spray herbicides and pesticides into marine waters for their beneifit. How do they see themselves when they complain of urban runoff and sediments from logging operations running into Willapa Bay? Are "rural activists" pursuing clean and healthy waters so they may profit less pure than urban activists?

Dredging for ecosystem services

(screen shots from 
"Oyster Dredging" in Willapa Bay)

Dreading ecosystem services in Willapa Bay
In the final piece of irony, the public relations editorial printed in the Chinook Observer speaks highly of the habitat services provided by oyster beds: "...more crab, more fish, more birds." Unfortunately, not described is the devastation those oyster growers bring to those oyster beds and habitat at harvest time. In the images above it is clear that not only is eelgrass being ripped from the tidelands of Willapa Bay, but that whatever "habitat" those oyster beds provided is destroyed when harvesting takes place. It's the kind of ironic story which happens when people who sit in urban offices direct how a public relations campaign in a rural area should unfold - it folds up on itself.

Get involved - tell the Governor and your elected officials it is time to stop spraying chemicals into Willapa Bay and oyster growers to move into the future.

Governor Inslee: https://fortress.wa.gov/es/governor/
Legislative and Congressional contacts:

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Hood Canal Experiences Bloom of Coccolithophores - If they can do it why can't I?

Coccolithophore - Emiliania huxleyi 
The great calcifiers.

The Lake Louise of Puget Sound
Satellite images from last week caught what a few may have seen while driving along Hood Canal - an immense bloom of phytoplankton, believed to be Coccolithophore. While generally known for turning vast areas of the oceans a milky white, they may also at times cause the waters to be turquoise in color, similar to the color of Lake Louise in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada. They are made up largely of calcium carbonate shields.

Non-native Pacific Oysters:
Not so great calcifiers.

You're getting warmer
As the Coccolithophores are made up largely of calcium carbonate it is unclear why Taylor Shellfish and Coast Seafoods are having such difficulty growing non-native Pacific oysters in their hatcheries. Seen in the picture above is the concentration of the phytoplankton, located in Dabob Bay. It is the same area where non-native Pacific oyster larvae die-offs in hatcheries have caused large amounts of taxpayer dollars to be spent in an attempt to understand why. Currently, a low pH level believed to be caused by CO2 altering the chemistry of the water is believed to be the cause. A recent paper in Ocean Acidification discussed the possibility that global warming helped Coccolithophores adapt relatively quickly to the changes in chemistry brought about by lower levels of pH.

Why oh why can't I?
Native Olympia oyster on the left,
non-native Pacific oyster on the right.

Sometimes bigger isn't better.
In addition to discovering the currently accepted cause of this hatchery failure, taxpayer funding has also discovered the smaller, and native Olympia oyster appears to fare much better in this lower pH environment. Added to that list of native species which appear to be able to adapt to this environment is the Coccoliothophore phytoplankton currently thriving in Hood Canal. In the case of the shellfish industry, the non-native Pacific oyster is the oyster of choice, as it grows faster and larger than the native Olympia oyster which was over-harvested to near extinction. It may be, in the end, that being bigger isn't always better.

The big picture.

Get a larger perspective on things.
Seen in the satellite image above, taken in late July, the area of Hood Canal affected by the bloom is clearly seen. What the long term implications of the bloom are remain to be seen, except that things change, sometimes faster than we know.