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:

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Superior Court Upholds SHB Denial of Geoduck Farm Permit - Press Release

Geoduck Farm Permit Denial Upheld by Superior Court: The Coalition to Protect Puget Sound Habitat has issued a press release on the recent Superior Court decision which upheld the Shorelines Hearings Board's denial of a permit issued for a geoduck farm in south Puget Sound. In upholding the denial the Superior Court acknowledged the need for deeper studies on the cumulative impacts these industrial operations are having on Puget Sound's critical marine habitats. To those who gave their valuable time and financial support needed to stand up to this well financed and motivated industry, thank you. Get involved - it does make a difference.

Date:  April 21, 2015
Contact: Laura Hendricks  (253) 509-4987
Thurston County Superior Court Decision in Darrell de Tienne and Chelsea Farms, LLC v. Shoreline Hearings Board, Coalition to Protect Puget Sound Habitat and Paul and Betty Garrison, Pierce County

On April 3, 2015, Thurston County Superior Court Judge Carol Ann Murphy announced her decision regarding the appeal of the Shorelines Hearings Board (SHB) denial of the Shoreline Substantial Development permit for a five plus acre commercial geoduck farm in Henderson Bay on a site that included extensive eelgrass beds that had been earlier devastated by the illegal harvest of geoduck by the applicant, Darrell de Tienne, and his former harvest partner, Washington Shellfish.  

Judge Murphy concluded that the SHB decision in January 2014 correctly interpreted and applied the relevant law and that its Findings of Fact were supported by substantial evidence.  Judge Murphy’s decision means that, absent a further appeal to the Court of Appeals, the permit to operate the farm issued by Pierce County was revoked. The case and the Shoreline Hearings Board decision were noteworthy in several respects.  The geoduck farm, had it been permitted, would have been the first subtidal farm in Pierce County.  There has been a rapid expansion of commercial nearshore geoduck farms in recent years as the demand for the geoduck has exploded in Asian markets, particularly China, where the long necked clam is perceived by many as an “aphrodisiac.” 

Laura Hendricks, Citizen Representative for the Coalition to Protect Puget Sound Habitat (Coalition), said her organization was especially pleased by Judge Murphy’s decision because it meant, for the first time, there would be a scientific examination and analysis of potential adverse environmental impacts associated with the proliferation of geoduck farms in south Puget Sound.  “We’ve been advocating for a  cumulative impacts analysis to be completed for some time now,” said Hendricks.  “This is a major win." "The commercial shellfish industry has been resisting calls for greater environmental scrutiny of their  operations for years.  Now, for the first time, the people who care about the environmental health of Puget Sound and the impacts of the tremendous expansion of the commercial shellfish industry in the  Sound will have their concerns addressed.” 

Judge Murphy’s ruling also upheld the Shoreline Hearings Board’s rejection of the 10 feet and 25 feet seaward eelgrass protection buffers contained in the Pierce County Permit for the farm.  Eelgrass  enhancement is one of the top three recovery goals established for Puget Sound, and protection and restoration of eelgrass in Puget Sound has been a longtime goal of the Puget Sound Partnership. The Coalition fought for seaward buffers for eelgrass protection of at least 100 feet and just recently found that the Canadian science paper that the shellfish industry presented to the SHB to try to justify smaller eelgrass buffers was rejected for publication by the Journal of Shellfish Research after the hearing. 

The substantially reduced protection for eelgrass, which occurred after the formal Pierce County hearing concerning the farm’s permit had commenced, was deeply troubling to opponents of the farm, Brad and Sandra Newell, Coalition members and Henderson Bay residents. Said Brad, “That was a last minute backroom political deal, so we’re delighted the SHB decision rejecting the minimal buffer will remain in place.  There was no scientific basis for such a reduction.”  “It also is completely contrary to the suggested 180 foot waterward buffer for subtidal farms to protect submerged aquatic vegetation just adopted by the Pierce County Commission in its updated Shoreline Master Program last month,” added Thane Tienson, attorney for the Coalition. 

The Coalition also opposed the planned farm, as it has many others, as they continue to point to scientific studies documenting harm from plastic pollution like the widespread aquaculture gear plastic pollution in Puget Sound waters. Shellfish farms use hundreds of thousands of plastic PVC tubes, HDPE netting, plastic bands and HDPE bags for their operations as scientists say the resulting plastic debris and plastic particles harm aquatic life. According to Charles Moore, the world renowned marine plastic debris expert who has testified for the Coalition, "at the present time, it does not appear possible to introduce any conventional plastic into the marine environment without harmful consequences."

Judge Murphy's final signed decision should be available in the coming weeks. For more information:                                         www.coalitiontoprotectpugetsoundhabitat.org

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