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, October 24, 2012

DNR Aquatic Lands: Active Managment or Extraction of Value

Through our sustainable management of resources entrusted to our care, future generations will have ample opportunities to enjoy and benefit from Washington’s rich natural heritage. We will also ensure that revenues for our trusts will be stable or growing and that associated industries will thrive for generations to come. (From Department of Natural Resources website)

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is responsible for managing state owned lands and resources in Washington for the benefit of current and future generations. Included are upland acres with timber, and aquatic tideland (primarily subtidal) acres with geoduck. From timberland, trees are harvested and replanted with seedlings. From subtidal aquatic beds geoduck are extracted but are not replanted.

As Trustee, DNR has a responsibility to both current and future generations in its management of lands. In the case of subtidal aquatic bedlands, management of an area should not stop after geoduck are extracted, but should, as with harvested timberland, require replanting. Instead, DNR relies on the natural recruitment of geoduck from whatever population may remain after harvesting, whether within the tract harvested or nearby. This is short sighted management.

Imagine the same philosophy applied to timberlands. Harvesters arrive and cut stands of timber leaving pockets of trees to seed the harvested lands. While over time the area would reseed and a new forest would grow, that growth would only happen where seedlings from the remaining trees  land and take hold. While reforestation would occur, it would do so over a period extended by decades beyond a forest replanted with seedlings already established and planted at the optimal time of year for survival.

In the case of geoduck, it is estimated a harvested subtidal tract will take 40 years to repopulate in densities high enough to warrant reharvesting. Compare this to a crop cycle of 5 to 7 years currently taking place with commercial intertidal harvesting by private companies, in areas geoduck do not naturally grow.

Subtidal planting is happening now. In Alaska the first commercial harvests of subtidally planted geoduck are occurring. In Canada large sums of money are being drawn in from investors to further develop subtidal planting. Studies on impacts from harvesting subtidal plots up to 6,000 square meters (1.5 acres) in size have taken place there. In Puget Sound, divers from Spencer Cove report successful subtidal planting as high as 4 geoduck per square foot. Seattle Shellfish has leased subtidal tidelands from Manke Timber for the "cultivation and harvest of geoduck clams."

Numbers below compare a replanted subtidal density of 2 per square foot, harvested every 10 years (growth subtidally is slower), versus current management practices resulting in natural densities at .5 per square foot (a generous assumption*) harvested every 40 years. (*From Goodwin/Pease: "The average density of these young [geoduck] clams was 0.78/square meter in unfished areas and 0.54/square meter in fished [harvested] areas. The results indicated that fishing [geoduck harvesting] had an adverse effect on recruitment.")

Actively Managed: Harvesting Every 10 years
1 acre  = ~44,000 square feet
Planted (survival of 2/square foot) = 88,000 geoduck per acre
Harvested (2 pounds ea.) = 176,000 pounds of geoduck every 10 years

Unmanaged: Harvesting Every 40 years
1 acre = 44,000 square feet
Natural reseeding .5/square foot (most likely less) = 22,000 geoduck per acre
Harvested (2 pounds ea.) = 44,000 pounds of geoduck every 40 years

Over 40 years
Managed: 704,000 pounds of geoduck (4 separate harvests)
Unmanaged: 44,000 pounds of geoduck (1 harvest)

While there is an added expense of seedlings, planting, and having to use divers for harvesting (something intertidal growers do at high tide now), there are also economic upsides. Facilities to grow seed will need to be used. Divers to plant and harvest would need to be hired. Those divers would need commercial diving equipment. And, of course, there is the immense increase in revenues DNR would generate for the tribes and Washington from an acre of subtidal tidelands replanted after harvest.

Perhaps most significant of all is the current private commercial methods have transformed intertidal tidelands into geoduck farms, with both habitat functions and species diversity impacted.

Were DNR to actively manage its subtidal aquatic beds as well as it does its timberland, financial returns for the tribes and state would be greatly increased. Intertidal impacts would be lessened, if not eliminated. It requires effort and forward thinking. As Trustee of state lands, however, DNR has a fiduciary responsibility to manage them for the benefit of both current generations, and "...for generations to come."

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