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:

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Protection of Eelgrass and the Shoreline Management Act

In an evolving story being played out between Mason County, Pierce County and Pacific County is seen a problem in allowing local agencies to create their own Shoreline Master Programs which are intended to protect the near shore environment and prevent the fragmentation of its habitat functions. In this example it is how these 3 counties interpret how eelgrass should be protected. Or not.

Brant Geese Foraging on Eelgrass
Mason County and Activity Within a Native Eelgrass Bed
Mason County has issued a SEPA determination of non-significance and will not require a development permit for a restoration project proposed by the Puget Sound Restoration Fund which will take place within a bed of native eelgrass located in Hood Canal. The proposal is to spread Olympia oysters, individually or as spat on Pacific oyster shell, throughout the bed and then to determine what the impact is on the eelgrass. Past studies have already shown eelgrass is impacted - reduced or eliminated - when oysters are cultivated at certain densities within the bed. (Note: The county will accept comments until May 21. Contact Alan Borden at ahb@co.mason.wa.us.)
Herring Spawn on eelgrass

Pierce County Requiring Buffers of 25' to 180' away from Japanese Eelgrass and Native Eelgrass Beds
At the same time that Mason County has issued a permit exemption and a SEPA determination of non-significance for activity within a native eelgrass bed, Pierce County is trying to determine how far away from an eelgrass bed aquaculture should be allowed to take place. In the case of Pierce County they are considering buffer distances of 25' to 180', with a possibility of 10' in some places, with no activity occurring within the bed. In addition, they are also telling the applicant that they consider Japanese eelgrass as important a habitat as native eelgrass. Buffers will apply to both species. (The Hearing Examiner is currently considering whether to issue a permit for the proposal.)

Copper Rockfish in Eelgrass Habitat

Pacific County wants Japanese Eelgrass Eliminated
In the case of Pacific County, they and the shellfish industry were able to convince the State Noxious Weed Board that the habitat functions of Japanese eelgrass are less important than the ability to grow Manila clams. In this case, shellfish growers stated that Japanese eelgrass may be causing Manila clams to be smaller. The Board decided to categorize Japanese eelgrass as a Class C noxious weed, if it was on a cultured shellfish bed. The next year, despite the Board's own advisory committee recommending against it, the county and the shellfish industry were able to expand the Class C classification to include all of Washington's tidelands. Currently the Department of Ecology is considering whether to allow spraying Japanese eelgrass with the herbicide Imazamox to eliminate it with Pacific County being the application area. Despite its clear habitat functions and its ability to remove CO2 from marine waters, Pacific County views it differently. (Note: The Coalition to Protect Puget Sound Habitat is asking that this decision be reversed.)

Brian Sheldon, Northern Oyster
Claims his clams are smaller
because of Japanese eelgrass.

Lack of Habitat Protection Cohesiveness
The Department of Ecology's role is to ensure the Shoreline Management Act is implemented consistently throughout the state through each county's Shoreline Master Programs. As seen in this case the buffer distances protecting native eelgrass range from nothing to its possible elimination, and how county's view the importance of habitat functions provided by Japanese eelgrass range from very important to its being sprayed with herbicides to eliminate it. Allowing each county to develop its own SMP is many times heavily influenced by local corporate interests. Without strong leadership from the Department of Ecology it will result in fragmented development occurring, something the Shoreline Management Act was intended to prevent.

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