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:

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Drakes Bay Oyster Company: Castles Made of Sand

"Castles made of sand ..."

Shellfish growers from the East Coast Shellfish Growers Association and Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association lobbying groups are upset about Secretary Salazar's decision to allow a lease for a commercial shellfish farm in the Point Reyes wilderness area to expire. They claim "accepted environmental science" shows commercial shellfish farms, as operated today, benefit the environment and they are "going to sue." More importantly, they are at the same time lobbying for Governor Gregoire to replace Secretary Salazar. Unlike the Governor, Secretary Salazar placed the definition of "Wilderness" above the commercial needs of the shellfish industry.

Look a Little Deeper

Why are they bringing "forces to bear?" It is not over concern of the Lunny family who purchased the farm, knowing its lease was set to expire in 2012. The Lunny family is very well off and will continue to be well off from the profits made while operating the shellfish farm and from their upland dairy/cattle farm operated nearby. Nor are they concerned about their employees. Workers will be displaced, but if we are to believe Taylor Shellfish and the PCSGA, their skills are in high demand and will be easily absorbed by the shellfish industry. They lobbied in Washington D.C. this February for immigration reform, distributing an "issues paper" stating: "In a healthy economy, the domestic workforce does not provide sufficient numbers of qualified workers for the shellfish industry."

Why are they so upset they are going to spend the money to sue? It is because they are worried the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which clearly shows adverse impacts from current methods used in commercial shellfish farming, establishes a precedent which will be used to regulate the industry and constrict the growth and tideland development they have lobbied so hard for.

Existing and Proposed Geoduck Farms in Henderson Inlet
From a November 26 permit hearing, courtesy of Sierra Club

Commercial shellfish farms, as operated today, are transforming the aquatic habitat of all areas they operate in, and even those far from where they are located. Gone are the days when Justin Taylor, as a boy, used to spread shell on the tidelands for oyster clusters grow on, to be harvested three years later. Now, genetically modified non-native Pacific oysters are "hatched" in a waterside factory and placed into growout bags, smothering and scouring the tidelands they are placed on. Other growers tie "oyster cages" together with floats which rise off of and fall back onto the tidelands with each cycle of the tides, scouring the sediments. A natural habitat is completely altered.

Grow Out Bags

Shellfish growers justify this by saying bags create "structure" and oysters provide "filtering". Were oysters left in place, and natural reefs allowed to develop as they had in the past, this may have merit. But they are not. Every two years, or sooner, this "structure" and any filtering provided are removed, leaving in its place scoured tidelands, soon covered by new growout bags and oysters hatched from as far away as Hawaii. This is not "wilderness" nor is it even natural. Nor is it the only impact from commercial shellfish operations which is occurring.
Penn Cove Processing Barge
In addition to the adverse tideland impacts the shellfish industry is so concerned about are the in water facilities which exist. Totten Inlet and Penn Cove are two areas where large mussel farms are operated. In Penn Cove, an in-water processing facility is used to clean and process mussels harvested from the near 50 rafts located in Penn Cove.

A recent permit for 58 mussel rafts in Thurston County was denied due to the EIS not adequately considering cumulative impacts. Among other things, dissolved oxygen levels below the rafts were significantly decreased. Shells dropping off from mussel die-off smothered the sediments below the rafts. Deposition of feces and pseudo-feces concentrated nutrients below the rafts. Spreading of non-native Gallo mussels into habitat of native mussels was occurring. All were issues not adequately addressed in the EIS and, in part, why the Hearing Examiner denied the permit.

CO2 and Ocean Acidification

Most recently, the Blue Ribbon Panel on Ocean Acidification described how CO2 is lowering the pH level in ocean waters and lessening the molecules necessary for calcification, resulting in hatcheries being unable to produce adequate amounts of seed. It also results in native species having fewer molecules to use for calcifying. The recommendation? Expand shellfish farming. The problem? The increase in densities of shellfish grown will use up even more of the diminished supply of molecules necessary for life by native species.

Their recommendation on limiting the primary source of CO2 exported to China, coal? "We are silent on that issue." Involvement of the farming/dairy/cattle industries on recommendations? Nothing because, as Bill Dewey reported to the PCSGA in January: "Ocean Acidification – Sustainable Fisheries Partnership will help identify participants for the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Panel." (January 2012 minutes of PCSGA meeting.) It seems Mr. Warren forgot to include them when he helped create the panel, even knowing they would be one of the primary targets of recommended actions.

Castles built of sand slip into the sea. The shellfish industry is finding their own "scientific" foundation slipping into the sea.

Get involved. Let President Obama and your congressional representatives know Governor Gregoire is not the best choice to replace Secretary Salazar, should he decide to leave.

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