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, November 3, 2013

Tribal Entities Pressing for Subtidal Geoduck Re-Planting and Survey

[Update November 4: Information on the subtidal acreage (over 1,000 acres) in Hood Canal which the Port Gable S'Klallam Tribe has asked to be surveyed for the current population has been added. In addition, wording to clarify the subtidal area to "enhance" (replant) is that which has been harvested of wild geoduck, an area -18 to -70 feet deep.]

Port Gamble S'Klallam Tribal Request for Proposal (RFP) on Subtidal Geoduck Re-Planting
The Port Gamble S'Klallam Tribe (one of the four Klallam tribes) has requested proposals to study subtidal re-planting of geoduck after wild harvesting. Initially the RFP will be focused on literature, current methods employed, and how to improve the economic return from subtidal enhancement (planting). Proposals were due November 1.

RFP for Subtidal Survey of Over 1,000 Acres in Hood Canal
In addition to the re-planting project, the Port Gamble S'Klallam Tribe is also asking that over 1,000 subtidal acres in Hood Canal be surveyed to determine the current population of tracts, some of which have been harvested. The 22 separate tracts range in size from 6 acres to 294 acres. The subtidal acreage in the main body of Puget Sound, both harvested and not, is far greater.
Natural Recruitment After Wild Harvesting of Subtidal Tracts A Concern
In the Request for Proposal (RFP) a clear concern about the time it takes for a "harvested" subtidal tract to naturally replenish the population is noted. Concerns of over-harvesting is implicit.
"Current levels of subtidal harvest of wild geoduck populations may exceed the low natural recruitment rates of natural stocks."
Natural Recruitment Takes Time - A Long Time, if at All
Current estimates for a subtidal tract to naturally repopulate and reach maturity, in a density justifying harvesting, range from 40 up to 100 years. The range is dependent on how far away the remaining seed source is (i.e., mature geoduck not harvested), the topography and sediments of the bottom, and poaching. In a Seattle Times article published last year, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife's (WDFW) Bob Sizemore, commenting on populations not being what they expected when surveying tracts previously harvested, was quoted as saying: "Poaching is very clearly a part of it — and in fact could be a very large part of it,".
Commercial Operations and Inventory Turns
Commercial intertidal areas (those tidelands exposed when the daily tides go out) using PVC pipe and "nursery seed" typically take 4 to 6 years to reach "market maturity" due to the size planted, warmer temperatures, and plankton typically being more plentiful in the nearshore area. Current subtidal planting occurring takes in the range of 7 to 8 years. (Note: Geoduck are considered "marketable" when they are 1.5 to 2 pounds per geoduck.) Assuming natural recruitment takes 40 years, subtidal planting of tracts whose wild geoduck have been harvested could increase "inventory turns" (and revenues received) by 5 fold. In addition, increased density through managed planting would further increase returns to the state and possibly the tribal entities.

Subtidal Tracts Managed by the State - Or Not
Virtually all of the subtidal lands of Puget Sound (those never exposed at low tide) are owned by  Washington state and managed by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and WDFW. The tribes, through treaty rights, participate in 50% of the revenues generated from geoduck harvesting. A small percentage of subtidal lands is privately held with industry divers stating planting densities of up to 4 per square foot are being achieved on some of these private subtidal lands. Unlike state and privately owned forest land which is required to be replanted after harvesting the subtidal tracts are simply stripped of the wild geoduck (estimated at over 4 million pounds per year) and left to recruit naturally.

Subtidal Geoduck Planting Expanding
John Lentz with Chelsea Farms is currently attempting to obtain a permit to grow geoduck on a subtidal plot near Burley Lagoon, and according to sources in Alaska, is currently participating in subtidal farming there. Taylor Shellfish has stated their desire to plant up to 30 acres within Burley Lagoon, a portion being subtidal. As noted above, divers in the industry have stated subtidal planting on privately owned subtidal tracts in Washington is already occurring with densities of up to 4 per square foot being achieved.

Is Seed Limitation a Problem?
Currently the availability of "seed" limits the amount of planting which occurs in Puget Sound. It is also a limiting factor in Alaska. But the expansion of hatchery and nursery facilities is occurring. As an example, Seattle Shellfish has discussed a hatchery facility on its Harstine Island property adjacent to Spencer Cover where its floating nursery facility already exists. Nursery facilities for oysters in marinas are currently being permitted which, when used for geoduck, would increase the supply. Within DNR seedling facilities for reforestation are managed by the state. Geoduck seed should be no different.

Lummi and Port Gamble S'Kallam Tribal Partnerships
More focused on tribal needs is the fact that the Lummi Tribe is currently one of the largest suppliers of geoduck seed to the industry. The Lummi could easily decide to provide seed to their tribal partners. Alternatively, the "technology" currently used by the Lummi Tribe (a converted fish hatchery, easily replicated) could easily be shared with the other tribal entities in Washington (e.g., the Squaxin, Nisqually, and Puyallup tribes). So doing would greatly enhance the subtidal management and planting, resulting in larger returns more quickly to the tribal members.  Were DNR and WDFW to agree that replanting the harvested subtidal tracts is, in fact, a viable means of "managing" state resources, both entities would benefit, including taxpayers.

It's Where they Grow Naturally and Where they are Being Removed From - And Is Vast
In the subtidal area between -18 and -70 feet, as noted earlier, over 4 million pounds of wild geoduck are being harvested subtidally each year. In Hood Canal alone, the Port Gamble S'Klallam tribe is asking over 1,000 acres be surveyed. It is where they grow naturally and where vast tracts are being left empty after harvest. Intertidal planting is occurring at elevations geoduck never grew naturally (up to +3.5 feet) displacing native species which use that habitat. To not replenish geoduck in lands under state management is an oversight. The Port Gamble S'Klallam tribe's press to make this happen should be a welcome step. It would also eliminate virtually all of the current anxiety over intertidal planting.

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