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.

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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Eelgrass and Ocean Acidification: Actions Based on Science or Corporate Profits?

"...the more man interferes with nature the greater become the problems he creates." (Maurice Yonge, Oysters, 1960 p. 189).

From a September 5, 2012 email from the Depatment of Ecology: "Ecology is in the process of developing a permit to allow treatment of Japanese eelgrass on commercial clam beds in Willapa Bay. The applicants [shellfish companies] have asked to treat [eradicate] the Japanese eelgrass [in Willapa Bay] with the aquatic herbicide imazamox."

For six months the Department of Ecology has been hosting the "Blue Ribbon Panel" on Ocean Acidification. Increased CO2 levels in marine waters has resulted in increased acidity (lower pH). Impacted hardest has been Willapa Bay where oysters have been unable to "set" (grow) naturally and caused a shellfish hatchery to move its facilities to Hawaii [read Seattle Times article here]. High levels of CO2 have been directly linked to the lower pH levels, in turn linked directly to why larvae are unable to survive in Willapa Bay.

On June 20, of the 10 recommendations on adapting to Ocean Acidification, four were specifically related to eelgrass and aquatic vegetation:
Encourage shellfish/seagrass [eelgrass] co-cultivation
Investigate and develop seaweed farming
Restore eelgrass and kelp beds
Promote community-based programs to mitigate nutrient inputs (using shellfish and seaweeds)
[See "Initial Recommendations for Managing and Adapting to the Impacts of OA here]

Notes from that presentation on Ecology's website include: "... conservation of existing eelgrass beds may be more feasible and less expensive than cultivation of new beds." [see page 6 from summary notes here]

July 20 the ability of eelgrass to absorb CO2 was stressed again, noting eelgrass "sucking up all that CO2."
August 8, "Workgroup 3: Adaptation and Remediation" of the committee produced its final four recommendations. Eelgrass or use of aquatic vegetation to lower CO2? It has apparently been absorbed by the shellfish industry, respired as how to "fund my hatcheries and industry."
Action 2.1 Continue water quality monitoring at six existing shellfish hatcheries and rearing areas.
Action 2.2 Investigate efficacy of water treatment strategies and/or hatchery design to protect larvae from corrosive seawater.
Action 2.3 Investigate potential to breed and/or select OA-tolerant strains of shellfish and other vulnerable marine species.
Action 3.1 Prioritize investment in adaptation & remediation actions that provide future shellfish habitat capable of enduring a full suite of anticipated environmental changes.
[see Priority Action Recommendations here] 
Panel members are right to question whether too much money and time is being spent on hatcheries. Concerns noted the process was spending too much time focusing on how to get shellfish to survive in a hatchery so they can survive in the water instead of putting energy into how to get the water clean so they can grow naturally.  

When the preservation and expansion of eelgrass beds are dropped by the Blue Ribbon Panel and the Department of Ecology wants to eradicate beds in Willapa Bay where ocean acidification has had the largest impact, a very real risk of a perception that science has taken a back seat to corporate profits rises. Is that what the scientists and panel members want to be remembered for?

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