DNR: Not my job. We only auction harvest rights
on subtidal geoduck tracts and we don't manage them
like our forestlands which require replanting.
"Basically, if you cut down a forest,
it takes a very long time to come back."
Bob Sizemore, Department of Fish and Wildlife
In an interview on PBS Newshour with Katie Campbell, Bob Sizemore discusses the impact which poaching of geoduck is having on the subtidal population of geoduck. While DFW is responsible for setting the percentage of of how much wild geoduck should be harvested, it is the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) who is responsible for overseeing the actual harvesting and auctioning. Between the two, neither seem capable of guaranteeing the wild population will be retained in numbers high enough to re-populate the areas harvested, a management plan which, if successful, takes 40 years to accomplish. But it's not working and puts the entire population of Puget Sound's subtidal geoduck population at risk of following the same pattern the shellfish industry set in the late 1800's when the native Olympia oyster was overharvested to near extinction.
"We see signs of poaching, and we don’t find any recovery."
Bob Sizemore, Department of Fish and Wildlife
With 5 divers, DFW is responsible for checking the population of geoduck after harvesting in areas auctioned off. With those divers, they are only able to check on 3% of the areas harvested, and what Bob Sizemore says they are finding are poaching and no recovery. On only sampling 3% of the areas harvested. The response from DNR? Keep harvesting, repopulating is not our job. Unless it's forestland, but it's not.
"...they’re [DFW] only able to check a fraction of the boxes,
and there’s no telling how much illegal shellfish slips through."
Attempts to find illegally harvested shellfish being exported at the airport, as with DFW's divers, is understaffed and only able to "check a fraction" of what is being exported. Coupled with responsibilities for checking the "black market" where seafood turns up, it is a woefully inadequate attempt to control a black market where tens of thousands of dollars are being exchanged each day. DNR simply feeds the pipeline with wild geoduck hoping somebody else will figure out the solution to poaching and the risk to wild populations. Unlike their forestlands, which they require replanting of after harvesting.
It's not 2008. It's time for DNR
to require replanting of subtidal areas
being stripped of geoduck.
Commissioner of Public Lands, Peter Goldmark (email@example.com), was elected in 2008 in a wave of concerns over how DNR's aquatics division was being managed. Questionable tideland leases and the handling of Taylor Shellfish's encroachment onto state tidelands by then Commissioner Sutherland and the aquatics division were of such concern enough voters turned out to elect Commissioner Goldmark, a scientist and rancher. He needs to rise above the politics of geoduck farming which have to date prevented DNR, or DFW, from implementing a management plan like that of its forestlands - requiring replanting of the subtidal areas harvested.
Benefiting a few does not benefit the state
or tribal members.
Pressures to limit the state's production for the benefit of the few large intertidal shellfish growers (Taylor Shellfish, Seattle Shellfish and Chelsea Farms) needs to be countered with reason and logic based on true management of the state's subtidal resources. Not one which forces geoduck into intertidal areas, in densities never found in that tidal area, with plastic nets and tubes never found in that area. Concerns over genetic diversity are easily handled through use of wild geoduck for seed. Concerns over "difficulties" in planting in subtidal areas are countered by Chelsea Farms pursuing a permit, now in the courts, for a farm in a subtidal area which they seem to find no problem planting in. Seed sources may be limited, but so too were salmon smolt when DFW took on managing fish hatcheries to produce salmon in 1895. Waiting 40 years for a subtidal area to be ready to harvest when that same area, if managed by replanting could be harvested 5 times (based on an 8 year growing cycle), is far more beneficial to the state. And the tribes. It is management and would most certainly help ensure the wild population continues on into the future. For the benefit of everyone, not just the few profiteering off of intertidal commercial farms, and not just the few poaching.
Let Commissioner Goldmark know it is not 2008 by writing and demanding DNR and DFW work to replant areas harvested instead of relying on a flawed model. Before it's too late. Commissioner Goldmark may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, or the office may be contacted at:
Kelli Messegee Office of the Commissioner of Public Lands
Olympia, WA 98504-7001
Find your local representative and tell them it's time to staff DFW with enough people to stop poaching here: http://app.leg.wa.gov/DistrictFinder/