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:

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Ecology and Economics of Geoducks

The Kitsap Sun's July 23, 2011 article "Economic benefits, ecological questions stall geoduck industry growth" by John Stang discusses the ecological concerns and economic benefits of geoduck farming. 

Some comments include:

1.  Taylor Shellfish spokesman Mr. Dewey believes the ecological concerns are driven by shoreline owners seeing tubes and workers on the tidelands. Shoreline owners did question what impact placing 38,000 tubes per acre was having on Puget Sound's intertidal ecosystem.  For that reason House Bill 2220 was passed.  In part it resulted in the University of Washington's Sea Grant finding no peer reviewed scientific studies existed (see Geoduck Literature Review).  As a direct result of concerns expressed by those first made aware of this new form of aquaculture the industry found itself being brought under regulatory scrutiny, resulting in a "Not Against My Business or Industry" backlash and unproductive statements such as Mr. Dewey's.

2.  In the article it noted the opinion of the University of Washington's Dr. VanBlaricom that the greatest densities of wild geoduck are occasionally the same as those found in commercial geoduck farms.  Comparing subtidal densities to intertidal densities is questionable at best.  Commercial densities forced into the ecosystem of the intertidal zone exposed each day by outgoing tides and covered again by incoming tides simply do not exist naturally, nor do the 38,000 plastic tubes per acre. 

3.  The article notes one factor limiting growth is hatchery seed survival rates falling and "the industry has not yet figured the cause of the drop."  Unnatural population densities of a genetic strain unable to survive puts the wild population of that species at risk.  The July 27, 2011 NY Times article entitled  "Norwegians Concede a Role in Chilean Salmon Virus" notes how Chile's wild salmon population has been decimated through the introduction of a virus through eggs shipped from Norway.  There is a risk found in aquaculture and regulations which minimize this risk are well founded, even if they stall growth.

4.  Commodities carry an economic risk with over production and geoduck are little different than tulips.  The article notes there are 360 acres currently in production.  If two geoduck per tube survive to 1.5 pounds, each acre produces 114,000 pounds  (38,000tubes*2*1.5#).  This means 41 million pounds are in various stages of growth.  If 2008, 2009 and 2010 produced 4.2 million pounds, this would leave 36.8 million pounds coming to market over the next four years.   What will happen to state and tribal geoduck revenues if overproduction causes the market to collapse?

5.  The Shoreline Management Act was created to prevent the fragmentation of the ecosystem found in Puget Sound's shoreline and to balance the various demands placed on the shoreline. Regulations controlling what goes on in the intertidal zone are needed to balance the ecological concerns with the economic benefits of geoduck aquaculture.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Whose Tidelands Are They?

Why does the question of "whose tidelands are they" matter?

Whether the public using them for recreational use; waterfront homeowners wishing to keep people off of their property; or, others interested in commercializing them, the answer to "whose tidelands are they" is important and not always clear.  How they were sold by Washington State and others through time has created challenges, some minor, some more significant. 

This picture of Harstine Island helps to show what some of the challenges are.

Harstine Island
(click to enlarge)

Tidelands in the lower portion of the picture, roughly below the line drawn in, include the area from the high tide line down to the extreme low tide line, close to what is exposed in the picture.  Tidelands in the upper area of the picture, above the line, are within a specific surveyed area (an "oyster tract") which, in this case, extends into the subtidal area but in many, if not all areas, not to the high tide line.

One of the challenges in how these tidelands were sold is there is a strip of tidelands which is still owned by the public between the high tide line and out perhaps 20' wide.  In essence, a "sidewalk" is available to anyone for walking on in the area above the line.  

A second challenge is the lagoon's tidelands (on the left side of the picture) are also owned by the public, whether for walking or digging for clams.  However, due to an assumption they are privately owned, shellfish have been grown commercially for years and, it has been used for loading and unloading barges.

The increasing value of tidelands, whether from recreational use by the public; for privacy; or, for their ability to commercially grow shellfish makes the question of "whose tidelands are they" important.  The answer is not as clear as it appears.