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:

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Sea Grant Funding Threatened by Trump Administration: A bad thing?

[March 17 - Clarification and correction:

Direct reference to studies created by Jeff Fisher, operator of a geoduck farm under the name of "Fisherport", continued as recently as January 6, 2017, in a letter penned by Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association attorneys to the Corps of Engineers. That letter was in response to the Seattle District's proposed General Conditions to the 2017 Nationwide Permit and an attempt to lessen regulatory oversight by the Corps. Reference to Dr. Fisher was made in order to support PCSGA's position that aquaculture in Puget Sound had "...minimal adverse to beneficial impacts..."

In addition to Dr. Fisher's studies, the PCSGA attorney's letter from January, 2017, also referenced the involvement of National Marine Fisheries Services in the programmatic consultation between NMFS and the Corps of Engineers in which NFMS issued a Programmatic Biological Opinion (PBO) on the Corps' oversight, dated September 2, 2016. As noted in the NFMS letter, that consultation between NMFS and the Corps began in 2007, noting that consultation process resulted in:
"...a final Biological Opinion in November 2014. That opinion required NWP-specific consultations before the COE could issue an individual NWP. The Services are addressing [in their September letter] that requirement for the 2012 NWP 48 with this [September 2, 2016] PBO." (p. 2 of September 2, 2016 opinion)
After extensive NMFS involvement providing consultation to the Corps' Seattle District, Jeff Fisher has left NMFS and in 2016 began work at the Marine Institute.]

Is the threat of de-funding Sea Grant and its associated research used to support the expansion of shellfish aquaculture in Puget Sound necessarily a bad thing? Consider just a few of the authors and research reports funded in whole or in part by taxpayer dollars to support expansion of the industry:

1. Jeff Fisher and Gregory Reub - Current or past principals with Environ, both significant providers of research funded in part or whole by Sea Grant to look at the impacts from geoduck operations in Puget Sound. Papers created and authored by each found little in the way of adverse impacts. These papers continue to be referenced directly or indirectly in permit hearings as proof of minimal impacts from expanding geoduck operations in Puget Sound.
Not disclosed: Both Mr. Fisher and Mr Reub, at the time of their involvement, each operated geoduck farms whose profitability would be directly impacted by favorable reports. Mr. Fisher is now with the National Marine Fisheries Services (NMFS) which provides opinions on the impacts of current and future shellfish operations to the Army Corps, and continues to operate his geoduck operation on Totten Inlet and has purchased tidelands adjacent to those his operation is on. Mr. Reub continues work for Environ and continues his geoduck operation. He has purchased the tidelands originally leased, put them into and out of a self-directed IRA, and has proposed to expand onto nearby tideland parcels.
2. The University of Washington, through funding contracts with Sea Grant, created a study using a model to determine how much commercial geoduck operations could expand in the Central Basin of Puget Sound before adverse impacts would begin to be felt by native species. Despite knowledge the kilograms harvested was likely not accurate, and choosing to ignore far higher harvesting levels from other years, they chose to publish the paper.
At issue with the paper is the generally accepted fact that harvest records reported to the Department of Fish and Wildlife are under reported (i.e., lower than reality), despite a law requiring accuracy of production from the growers. More significant, the paper stated there were 10,546 kg (23,250 pounds) harvested in 2012. WDFW records show nothing harvested in 2012, but instead that amount was harvested in 2011. More important than an incorrect year is that in addition, WDFW records show in 2008 there were 47,343 kg (104,374 pounds); in 2009 there were 19,050 kg (42,000 pounds); and in 2014 there were 5,436 kg (11,985 pounds). [2008 - 104, 374 pounds; 2009 - 42,000 pounds; 2011 - 23,250 pounds; and 2014 - 11,985 pounds] Further, when the paper was referenced in a recent permit hearing as evidence for impacts to consider, a memo was created by an industry environmental firm framing the paper as being little more than a model and something not to be relied on by agencies.
If this is the type of research taxpayers' dollars pay for through Sea Grant should citizens be upset it is being de-funded? Puget Sound is a critical resource and funding for its protection is important. It may be time another source be found. Perhaps taxing those who profit from its protection - in this case the shellfish industry and those leasing their tidelands to those corporations - should be considered.

* After leaving his position at Environ, Mr. Fisher moved to NOAA's NMFS where he was branch manager for the Lower Columbia River and Washington Coast, an area encompassing Puget Sound

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