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:

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Arcadia Point Seafood Submits New Application for Geoduck Farms in Thurston County

Public comments are due by 4PM, May 15 on two Thurston County geoduck farms.  Email comments to Mike Kain at kainm@co.thurston.wa.us  Mr. Kain's phone number is 360-786-5471.  The Shoreline Substantial Development Permit case numbers to reference are 2010100420 (Thiesen, parcel 11905230400 at 8940 Libby Road NE) and 2010100421 (McClure, parcel 11905230200 at 8702 Libby Road NE).

After almost two years of appeals, Arcadia Point Seafood has resubmitted applications to Thurston County for two geoduck farms on the Thiesen and McClure tideland parcels near the mouth of  Henderson Inlet.  Brought up in late 2009, they were told a Shoreline Substantial Development Permit was required. Arcadia joined Taylor Shellfish in appealing that decision.  In October 2011 the Superior Court agreed structures were being placed in the tidelands which required a permit. (click here to read the court's decision)

The Thiesen site is adjacent to rural shorelines zoned for one dwelling unit per acre and the McClure site is adjacent to a conservancy shoreline environment zoned for one dwelling per five acres.  Both sites are in developed areas with heavy use by hunters; fishermen; recreational boating; and there is a large, publicly owned tideland parcel adjacent to the Thiesen parcel (the upper tidelands are privately held).

All put in question whether Taylor Shellfish spokeswoman Diane Cooper's statement regarding aquacluture activities not being compatible in some areas applies to this location. Diane Cooper:  "... there are areas where shellfish farming and high density or high use areas and high use transient population areas probably aren't compatible uses."

Public comments are due by 4PM on May 15.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Ocean Acidification Blue Ribbon Presentation Video

An interesting and useful presentation from Shallin Busch is available on tvw.org (click here).  She described impacts on biology (species) from lowering pH levels.  Of interest were studies indicating different oysters in their larval stage respond differently.  The native Olympia oyster and Suminoe oyster survived far better than the triploid Pacific oysters, the primary "crop" of the shellfish industry.  Whether growth in the latter stages was impacted is unknown.
See Shallin Busch here:

Co-chair Bill Ruckleshaus asked one of the more important questions on addressing Ocean Acidification:  Will the upwelling of deep sea waters overwhelm any efforts put forth to address land based causes of increasing acidification in Puget Sound?  The deep sea upwelling is currently estimated to be 66% of the cause and will continue to increase over the coming decades as it worsens making the question of just where to focus efforts important.  CO2 emissions were estimated to be 8-17% and decomposition 17-26%.

Ecology's web site on acidification is here:  http://www.ecy.wa.gov/water/marine/oceanacidification.html

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Geoducks, Tulips and Internet Stocks

Current activity in the geoduck industry points clearly to a growing concern about a collapse in geoduck prices. (read a recent Seattle Times article on sky rocketing prices here) When that happens, and it will, what will Puget Sound's intertidal tideland habitat be as growers abandon their farms?

Consider the control of "production" from intertidal and subtidal tidelands suitable for growing geoducks in Puget Sound and investor "frothiness" in Canada.

Intertidal private tidelands:
1. There is a rush by shellfish operators to extend and lock current leases at the minimal 10% lease rates. This not only guarantees a minimal cost in the form of rent or property taxes, it also guarantees those tidelands cannot be used for anything else by anyone else. (Private tideland owners, unaware of the value and control they could extract from the growers, simply agree, allowing producer profits to be maximized.)
2. Controlling the supply of tideland production is seen further through their being purchased at premium prices. As an example, Manke Timber sold Taylor Shellfish 10 acres of tidelands, of which perhaps 5 are able to grow geoduck, for $475,000. Fudge Point Property appears to have sold 5 acres of lower tidelands to Taylor Shellfish for a similar price. (Note: Counties are to date reluctant to appraise tidelands being used for geoduck production at their true value, leaving hundreds of thousands - if not millions - of dollars in tax revenues uncollected. A rare exception is the Taylor/Manke tideland parcel.  However, its balance of $7,941 has not yet been paid by Taylor.  Again, if tidelands are leased, that tax burden will fall on the owner, not the producer.)
3. Of the remaining privately held tidelands, most have chosen instead to have their tidelands remain in their natural state, prioritizing their natural habitat functions and species diversity over the PVC structures needed to grow geoduck and the drop in species diversity which occurs (i.e., a monolithic population dominated by geoduck, with the few species attracted to PVC "structure" eliminated when the PVC pipe is removed).  This also constrains production.

State owned public tidelands (Is DNR the Saudi Arabia of the geoduck market? Able to turn on or off supply to influence pricing?):
1. Of the few remaining publicly owned intertidal tidelands, the shellfish growers have pending leases on many of those suitable for geoduck production. The state may or may not allow these tidelands to be removed from the public's use. If leased, further control over production would be gained by the few large operators, at a minimal lease rate (one bid was close to 20%, the remaining are at the "standard" 10% rate). As long as they are not leased, production is constrained.  If leased, producers gain production at minimal cost, a loss in revenue for the state and a loss in use by the public.  (Note: Some wonder whether there is complicit support by some growers preventing those tidelands from being leased to further constrain supply, thereby keeping prices artificially high.)
2. Subtidal tidelands owned by the state are currently stripped of geoduck, then allowed to re-populate naturally over a period of 20 to 35 years, at which time a new "crop" is available. Harvest limits are set at ~3% of the estimated number of wild geoduck. Instead of pursuing subtidal replanting as is being done in Canada and Alaska, and as is required on state forest lands after logging, the state instead has chosen to add further to the constraint in production - and lost revenues - by not requiring replanting after harvest. (This management decision puts additional pressure on the use of intertidal tidelands, putting these few remaining tidelands accessible to the public, with species unique to Puget Sound, at risk of forever becoming nothing more than industrial shellfish farms.)
Read about Alaska's subtidal planting here:
(Note:  There is an additional risk to this philosophy, clearly identified in the increasing acidification of the upwelling deep sea waters which flow into these subtidal areas.  Increasing acidification prevents shell formation at the larval stage.  Perhaps this is why the wild populations are not "filling in" as expected.)

Investor frothiness may be the best economic indicator of a coming collapse:
1. Consider this article pointing to a frothiness to acquire money from investors:
2. A Canadian website describing geoduck as a "Bilogical Goldmine" which is devoted to garnering investor interest. http://genuinegeoduck.com/about/
3. A Canadian "reality show", the Dragon's Den (where entrepreneurs seek out investors) shows Jim Treliving (Boston Pizza) negotiating a $500,000 investment being sought for expansion of subtidal planting in British Columbia.
Product supply constrained through artificial means and resultant inflated pricing is not sustainable. Product pricing with a significant component based on a culture's unfounded belief in a product bestowing virility is not sustainable (e.g., how many sharks have been killed for their fins; how many rhinoceros are killed for their horns). Geoduck prices will collapse whether from increased production through subtidal planting or the Chinese demand collapsing. Tulips and Internet stocks should have taught people a valuable lesson, especially when it relates to what species Puget Sound's intertidal tidelands will support in the future.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Coastal Senators Obtain Local Representation, Overcoming Governor Gregoire's Veto

State Senator Rankor (D - Orcas), Senator Hatfield (D - Raymond) and Senator Hargrove (D - Hoquiam) were able overcome Governor Gregroire's veto of a portion of Senate Bill 6263 which would have minimized local representation on coastal marine planning.   The Governor felt a staff representative from her office would have been good enough (click here for Chinook Observor article).  The Senators were able to create a legislative budget proviso which now directs agencies to consult with the local marine resource committees, ensuring local representation in guiding marine spatial planning (click to read Daily World article) .  How DNR (the lead agency), Ecology, WDFW and the various local councils will coordinate and allocate $2.1 million will remain to be seen.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Federal Funding for Shellfish Initiative Asked to be Blocked

Washington State Representative Doc Hastings (Republican) has asked the Appropriations Committee to block funding of the National Ocean Policy.  (read letter here)  Included is the National Shellfish Initiative and Coastal Marine Spatial Planning (read the Draft National Ocean Policy here).

81 separate industry groups signed an April 12 letter in support of this position stating industries generating tens of millions of jobs and trillions of dollars in revenues would be harmed. (read letter here

Representative Hastings notes federal agencies have been “instructed to prioritize” the National Ocean Policy and have been asked how their “existing resources [can] be repurposed” in furtherance of this new Executive Branch initiative.  It asks for a pause in implementation in order to "help reduce the risk of detrimental economic and societal impacts."

At the state level, Governor Gregoire's Washington Shellfish Initiative has also come under increased scrutiny.  Questions were  raised in a legislative hearing earlier this year on whether appropriate oversight exists to control the Executive Branch decision which created the initiative.  Washington coastal communities have expressed strong concerns that Governor Gregoire has allocated no funding for their communities.   Environmental groups have questioned the wisdom of "streamlined permitting" and the weaker oversight which would follow.  Related, coastal representation on coastal marine spatial planning was vetoed by the Governor, replaced by a single staffer from Olympia (read The Daily World article here).

Politically driven programs can sometimes achieve great things.  Sometimes they degenerate into a quagmire of competing interests which results in nothing.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Post Hearing Briefs for Taylor Shellfish Mussel Farm in Totten Inlet are Submitted

The post-hearing briefs on Taylor Shellfish's proposed 58 raft mussel farm in Totten Inlet have been submitted to the Thurston County Hearing Examiner.  The permit decision will rest on whether Taylor Shellfish has satisfied its "burden of proof" requirement and proven the most pristine estuary in South Puget Sound, with waters categorized as "extraordinary", will not be degraded with the addition of 58 more rafts growing non-native mussels.  Among other things, their testifying that dissolved oxygen levels within, below and around current mussel farms - and by extension the proposed farm - fall to hypoxic levels is a self-inflicted "burden" they did not overcome.

APHETI Post Hearing Brief:  (click here)
Taylor Shellfish Post Hearing Brief:  (click here)

One of Two Existing Taylor Mussel Farms in Totten Inlet
Which Causes Dissolved Oxygen Levels to Reach Hypoxic Levels 
(click to enlarge)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Ocean Acidification and Shellfish

Govenor Gregoire's "Blue Ribbon Panel" on ocean acidification has met and begun to discuss ocean acidification, a problem impacting the shellfish industry.  They are expected to submit their findings by July and have an action plan in place by September.  It is expected to address something which has been building for decades, perhaps longer, and will continue to get worse.   Considerations will include whether non-native shellfish are unable to adapt to the lowering pH levels and how to prevent the upwelling of deep ocean waters from entering Puget Sound and Willapa Bay, decreasing pH. 

Will a "bio-engineered" species of oyster, able to stand up to the lower pH level (i.e., a more acidic water), bring with it other problems?  The "Blue Ribbon Panel" needs to consider issues beyond economics.

An overview of the problem is discussed in this article, written by Eric Sigliano:

(Note:  Mention is made of concerns expressed by shoreline owners who are witnessing firsthand the transformation of tideland ecosystems and displacement of native species through the shellfish industry's use of plastics and high density planting of non-native species.  Unfortunately, the author seems to dismiss these industrial developments in the tidelands as merely being "unscenic."  Something for the author to consider in a follow-up article is what role aquaculture may play in the acidification problem the panel is in place to address.  Are the hatcheries, processing plants, species grown, chemicals applied, and structures used part of the problem or creating another?)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Governor Gregoire Leaves Out Coastal Residents Again

Coastal counties and citizens get a "staffer" from the Governor's Office in Olympia to represent their interests in Coastal Marine Spatial planning.

 Gov. Christine Gregoire
(from Chinook Observer, April 3, 2012)

Governor Gregoire has again left coastal communities upset.  In January coastal representatives and citizens complained about being excluded from the $4.5 million in federal funding available from NOAA's Shellfish Initiative (click here for article).  Funds for helping repair failing septic systems and preventing farm waste from entering marine waters in Pacific and Grays Harbor counties would go elsewhere.

March 30, Governor Gregoire vetoed Sections 5 and 6 from Substitute Senate Bill 6263 which, in part, would have created a council of citizens from these coastal counties to help guide the Coastal Marine Spatial Planning process created in the bill.  Instead she has decided to choose a staffer from the Governor's Office to speak for them.  Coastal representatives are disappointed to hear their citizens will have no voice in the creation of what is best described as "zoning for near-shore waters, tidelands and the continental shelf." (read the Chinook Observer article by clicking here) (read the Daily World article by clicking here)

Not mentioned in either of the articles was Section 4's diversion of 8% of revenues from the leasing of aquatic lands or sale of products from those lands, previously used to fund the Aquatic Lands Enhancement Account (ALEA).  This account's primary purpose?  After appropriation, these funds shall be used solely for aquatic lands enhancement projects; for the purchase, improvement, or protection of aquatic lands for public purposes; for providing and improving access to the lands; and for volunteer cooperative fish and game projects.  RCW 79.105.150

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Fudge Point/Sullivan Geoduck Farm Water Quality Certifications Appealed by CISA

The Case Inlet Shoreline Association (CISA) has appealed the Department of Ecology's Water Quality Certifications (WQC) issued for four geoduck farm developments proposed by Taylor Shellfish. Three are contiguous farms on Harstine Island's Fudge Point, and one is on a tideland parcel owned by the Sullivan family in Totten Inlet.  CISA will be represented by attorneys from Law Offices of Stephan C. Volker and Bricklin and Newman.

 Fudge Point, Harstine Island
(click to enlarge)

Totten Inlet Sullivan Parcel
(click to enlarge)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

National Marine Fisheries Service: Cumulative Impacts Not Considered by Nationwide Permits

Cumulative impacts: The impact on the environment which results from the incremental impact of the action when added to other past, present, and reasonably foreseeable future actions regardless of what agency (Federal or non-federal) or person undertakes such other actions. (40 CFR 1508.7).

(click here to read the Bilogical Opinion)

A Biological Opinion written by National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has told the Army Corps their 2012 Nationwide Permits are not able to determine whether cumulative impacts  are adversely impacting the environment.  NMFS has told the Army Corps they will now need to take specific steps with NFMS's Regional or Branch Office to ensure cumulative impacts are in fact considered (beginning on page 225).

NMFS's Northwest Regional Office, including the Southwest Washington Habitat Branch covering Mason, Thurston, Pacific, Pierce and Grays Harbor Counties, are now responsible for overseeing the Army Corps' implementation of Nationwide Permit 48 which covers existing shellfish farms as well as proposed new farms or expansion of existing farms.  They will be responsible for determining whether, in fact, cumulative impacts from shellfish farming can be determined and whether they are occurring.

Will the "Shellfish Initiative" and "streamlined permitting" being promoted by NOAA, the department overseeing NMFS, allow for objective oversight?  As it relates to Puget Sound and aquaculture, it borders on the fox guarding the hen house.  Especially in light of the recent lobbying by the shellfish industry to minimize the Army Corps' oversight of their activities.

(Shellfish industry lobbying paper on
minimizing Army Corps' oversight)
(Click to enlarge)