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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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Facets of National and State Aquaculture Initiatives Questioned by United States Representative and Washington Business Groups

NOAA's Involvement in Aquaculture Questioned
United States Representative Markey, Democrat from Massachusetts running for Senator Kerry's seat, is urging the Commerce Department [NOAA] not to expand its jurisdiction to regulate aquaculture at a time “when it is failing its core fisheries mission to restore wild stocks, like cod, haddock and flounder.”

Representative Markey

In an article in the  Gloucester Times it states "Under outgoing NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco, the agency has begun emphasizing aquaculture in the U.S., which is a bit player, producing less than $1 billion in product value in a $70 billion global market."

The article goes on to quote Representative Markey as saying, “[Aquaculture] always has the potential to negatively impact existing wild fisheries, harm the marine environment, and concentrate profit and power in the hands of a few large corporations,...".

The article notes further, "In arguing against a precedent-setting decision [NOAA regulating aquaculture] not intended by Magnuson, Markey observed that the law requires “NOAA to prevent overfishing, rebuild depleted fish stocks, designate and protect essential fish habitat: three actions that make no sense in the context of an aquaculture industry where fish are private property even before they are harvested.”

“Fish farming — which involves selectively breeding, feeding, growing and harvesting captive fish from crowded enclosures to maximize profit — is oceans away from fishing, which entails capturing wild fish from a functioning ecosystem at a rate that maximizes sustainable harvest over time,” Markey wrote.

NOAA's "conflict of interest" between promoting aquaculture and protecting marine habitat can also be directly tied to its shellfish initiative. In Puget Sound, the National Shellfish Initiative being used to promote the expansion of shellfish farming is in direct conflict with protecting the habitat used by endangered species as well as native species. Whether it be non-native Pacific oysters displacing the habitat of native shellfish or invasive tunicates being spread through harvesting of mussels or the intense densities of geoduck planted in areas they never grew, shellfish aquaculture as practiced by ever larger corporations is having an adverse impact on local species and habitat. The long-term impacts on Puget Sound's critical nearshore environment needs to be closely considered when asking whether the National Shellfish Initiative should be part of developing Shoreline Master Program updates or in permitting decisions.

Business groups question Senate Bill 5547 and Washington Shellfish Initiative's Ocean Acidification [click here for SB5547]
Addressing Ocean Acidification, a major component of the Washington Shellfish Initiative, Senator Ranker has introduced Senate Bill 5547. SB5547 would create a 21 member Marine Resources Protection Council within the office of the Governor which could create other panels, causing concerns for various business groups and individuals. Perhaps of most significance is their questioning whether science really shows "local sources" of nutrients have an impact on acidification.

Don Brunell, President
Association of Washington Business

The Association of Washington Business (AWB), ironically supporting Seattle Shellfish's lawsuit against the Corp of Engineers [click here] [and here], testified before the Senate Energy, Environment & Telecommunications Committee against the bill. AWB said additional layers of bureaucracy were of great concern. Creation of scientific committees, when the University of Washington and Puget Sound Partnership already exist and receive funding, was problematic for them. It also felt many of the "Blue Ribbon Panel's" scientific suggestions, especially those relating to local nutrient sources being a significant cause, were not "ready for prime time."

AWB's resistance was joined by the Washington Farm Bureau (WFB) who has stated that science has not shown that local factors (runoff, septic, farms, fertilizer) are increasing ocean acidification. Additional frustration was expressed that of the 21 members recommended, none represented agricultural interests, a concern also expressed about the original "Blue Ribbon Panel" created by the Governor. A final comment was also made about whether the added expense of "another government entity" was really a good idea in today's business environment.

A final ironic twist was opposition from Dick Sheldon with Northern Oyster in Willapa Bay, a major force behind expanding the eradication of Japanese eelgrass to all of Willapa Bay, beyond commercial clam beds. Mr. Sheldon felt the bill went far beyond addressing Ocean Acidification and it threatened the strength of a "local voice," also considering it a "broad expansion of power."

Should Shellfish Initiatives be part of Shoreline Master Programs and permitting questions?
As with the National Shellfish Initiative, the Washington Shellfish Initiative's long term impacts on Puget Sound's nearshore environment should also be questioned. Is it proper to consider these initiatives when developing Shoreline Master Programs and permitting decisions? Shellfish attorneys certainly think so. Virtually every county involved in updating their Shoreline Master Programs and planning commissions involved in permit decisions on shellfish farms has been told these intiatives clearly show support for the expansion of industrial shellfish farms.

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