“If you cut down a forest, it takes a very long time
to come back. So you need to be very careful with the harvest rate.”
Bob Sizemore, WDFW
WDFW Map showing plots sampled which have
declining densities and negative recovery
adjacent to commercial intertidal farms.
In "The Poaching of Puget Sound" from OPB's KCTS 9, Robert Sizemore with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife notes concerns over declining densities of wild geoduck in subtidal, publicly owned tracts, previously harvested. Provided by WDFW is a map showing the few plots sampled and those which have "declining densities" and "negative recovery" (tracts in red above). On Harstine Island, where some of the most intensive intertidal geoduck farming is occurring on private tidelands, those wild, subtidal state owned tracts co-managed by WDFW and DNR immediately adjacent to the commercial farms are not recovering as expected. In fact, they are declining in density.
Spencer Cove, Northeast Harstine Island
Intertidal farms/dive harvesting
are circled in red. The inset shows where
Washington's subtidal tract is located.
Wilson Point, Southeast Harstine Island
Private intertidal farms are circled in red. The
inset map shows DNR's subtidal geoduck tract
which is declining in density.
If all those geoduck are spawning why are they declining?
WDFW and DNR should both be concerned over how they are managing these public assets. Is it simple coincidence that some of the largest private farms are immediately adjacent to the tracts not recovering? Unlikely. Adding to why WDFW - and DNR - should be concerned is a recent study published shows the farmed geoduck in these commercial farms reach maturity and begin to spawn at 2 to 3 years of age. Why, if the high density geoduck on intertidal farms (40,000+ per acre) are spawning for a period of 3 to 5 years are subtidal tracts adjacent to them not recovering faster than normal? (see here for study: https://app.box.com/s/8glqtmh1v3vmbynwnzaga8spw7cn0ymc)
Is there a fox in the hen house?
Is poaching by those operating the farms adjacent to the state owned tracts occurring? Or is the commercial farming on private tidelands causing die-offs on subtidal tracts from sediment disruption or plastic pollution or a genetic problem? The answer needs to be found before the wild geoduck reach the same fate as the native Olympia oyster, now near extinction from overzealous shellfish farmers who simply sought a profit at the public's expense.
There's more to managing wild geoduck than
just counting how many are harvested.
As Mr. Sizemore with WDFW is quoted as saying, “If you cut down a forest, it takes a very long time to come back. So you need to be very careful with the harvest rate.” It's why DNR requires replanting of forestland after harvesting. As Commissioner Goldmark begins his campaigning on how he is managing state resources he may want to consider why DNR does not manage its subtidal tidelands like it does its forest land and require replanting of state owned subtidal tracts after geoduck ahve been harvested.