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:

Friday, December 13, 2013

China Bans Importing of Washington Geoduck - A Bubble Popped?

[Update 1/7/2013: Test Results by DOH show the skin of geoduck from Poverty Bay having  inorganic arsenic at levels the Chinese are concerned about. As DOH does not believe skin is normally consumed they have declared geoduck safe to eat.
[Update 1/4/2013: Test Results Delayed - The Department of Health has announced the results of testing for arsenic in Puget Sound geoduck will be delayed until next week. They had previously expected testing and analysis would be completed and results released by today (see article here). On January 5th it will have been one month since China first announced it had discovered arsenic in geoduck shipped from Washington's Puget Sound. Why test results had been postponed was not explained.
[Update 12/20: DNR suspends harvesting in Poverty Bay's Redondo tract where Arsenic was detected by China. The Puyallup Tribe which had been harvesting in the area also agreed to suspend harvesting until further testing could be done.]
[Update 12/15: For post on the geoduck bubble deflating see March 28 post. For additional comments on Puget Sound sediments see June 10 post on Oakland Bay's elevated levels of dioxins.]
[Update 12/14: China's ban is not limited to geoduck, but includes all shellfish. In addition to PSP, China has also stated elevated levels of arsenic were found. As reported in many studies, most recently Science in the Total Environment, arsenic from the ASARCO plant is distributed throughout the sediments in both fresh water bodies and in central Puget Sound, in some cases those same sediments from which geoduck are harvested from, both legally and not.]
Distribution pattern of arsenic/lead from ASARCO plant
(click to enlarge)
[Update 12/13: Chinese concerns about paralytic shellfish poisoning toxin are not limited to Washington's shellfish. The California Department of Health (CDPH) has warned consumers not to consume "sport harvested" shellfish from inner Tomales Bay and Monterey Bay due to paralytic shellfish poisoning toxins having been detected in mussels from these California waters.]
Alexandrium and Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning
A growing problem in Puget Sound

Washington state's Department of Health confirmed that China has banned the importing of geoduck from Washington state. Entry inspections of two geoduck shipments found concentrations of paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) toxins above standard levels. The toxins are the result of Alexandrium, a plankton now found further south than in years past, including Puget Sound.

Who will clean up this mess
when the geoduck market collapses? 

More than illnesses and geoduck profits are an issue
The loss of income and impacts to individuals and families due to illnesses from shellfish has been an ongoing concern to many. As noted, however, in earlier posts there is more than a health issue at hand. The geoduck industry has been expanding and has plans for many more farms throughout south Puget Sound. To date agencies have done little to nothing to ensure that when the market collapses someone will be responsible for removal of the hundreds of thousands of PVC piping and netting. To date, bonding requirements have been strongly resisted by the industry, let alone any other regulatory oversight.

Paralytic shellfish poisoning is year round and no longer an "Alaskan" problem
Unlike the Vibrio outbreaks which are occurring in growing numbers during the warm summer months, PSP is now occurring throughout the year. Numerous subtidal tracts in Puget Sound have been closed by DOH when sampling shows levels of the PSP toxins are higher than regulated amounts. While in the past it has been a greater problem in Alaska, it is now a growing problem in Puget Sound.

Vibriosis from shellfish rises from shellfish consumption, CDC concerned
In addition to the growing risk of paralytic shellfish poisoning the shellfish industry has been unable to control the growing number of outbreaks of vibriosis traces to the bacteria named Vibrio parahaemolyticus. In October the New England Journal of Medicine reported that the strain of Vp from the northwest has now spread to the Atlantic states. The spread of sources has resulted in the Center for Disease Control beginning an investigation into why.

Areas closed to commercial shellfish
farming in south Puget Sound due
to outbreaks of vibriosis in 2013
Most geoduck are grown/harvested
in south Puget Sound.

On top of vibriosis, a growing problem for the industry
In September the Huffington Post reported on the outbreak of vibriosis from oysters harvested in the northeast, further north than previously found in the past. A large majority of south Puget Sound was closed to the commercial harvesting of shellfish this last summer. Plans for increased production of genetically modified oysters which are sterile will likely increase consumption. Of more concern to the industry, and to the Center for Disease Control, has been an apparent inability to control the outbreaks which continue to grow. On top of vibriosis now comes PSP.

Agencies need to act with clarity, not respond to the shellfish industry's needs
It is time for agencies to begin acting with clarity. Bending to the will of the shellfish industry, no matter how important it is, should no longer be accepted. Contact your representatives and demand CDC and Food and Drug Administration be allowed to act. You can also help by donating to organizations such as Case Inlet Shoreline Association who are trying to protect Puget Sound's habitat.

Contact information for donations
(CISA is a 501c3 non-profit organization):
Curt Puddicombe
Case Inlet Shoreline Association (CISA)
PO Box 228
Vaughn, WA 98394-0228
Phone: 206-730-0288

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