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:

Friday, August 31, 2012

Pickering Passage Closed to Commercial Harvesting of Oysters

Pickering Passage has been closed to commercial harvesting of oysters due to illnesses traced directly to oysters harvested from this growing area. This is now the 9th commercial growing area which has been closed because of illness caused by oysters harvested from Puget Sound. These illnesses continue a known and growing problem.

Laboratory-Confirmed cases of Vibriosis
(Note: CDC estimates for every laboratory
confirmed case >40 are not reported to CDC.)
The annual outbreak of vibriois caused by oysters harvested from Puget Sound is an ongoing annual problem. When the FDA attempted to deal with lowering numbers through press releases the Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association reacted with complaints of "economic harm" (see Issue Paper below). Currently the "Blue Ribbon Panel" on Ocean Acidification is recommending actions specifically for the benefit of the shellfish industry with estimated costs at over $4 million (Note: A number of actions' estimates were not available, only noting they were "dependent on scale.") Decisions on the allocation of taxpayer dollars for the shellfish industry might consider the fact that warming temperatures will bring with it an increase in the naturally occurring Vibrio parahaemolyticus and most likely its more deadly cousin Vibrio vulnificus (currently found in Gulf State oysters which kills 50% of those who contract it). Allocating a portion of those taxpayer dollars to prevent outbreaks might be something for the "Public Outreach" committee and panel to consider.
PCSGA Issue Paper on FDA Press Releases
(click to enlarge)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Ilnesses from Samish Bay Oysters Halts Harvesting

The Department of Health has closed Samish Bay to commercial harvesting of shellfish due to vibriosis contracted by people who consumed oysters harvested from the area. It will remain closed until October 1. Last year outbreaks of vibriosis and resulting closures of commercial harvesting areas, including Samish Bay, caused China to recall all oysters harvested from Washington state [read here].

Taylor Shellfish's processing plant in Samish Bay.

(from Google Earth, 8/25/11)

Unlike fecal coliform, Vibrio parahaemolyticus (Vp) is a naturally occurring bacteria in Puget Sound. Unlike fecal coliform, every summer Vp numbers increase in the water column. Oysters and other shellfish then filter Vp from the water. If the shellfish are undercooked or eaten raw, it may cause vibriosis. In addition to Samish Bay, Vp has already caused Oakland Bay, Totten Inlet, Dabob Bay, and areas in Hood Canal.

Whether the apparent increase in outbreaks and significant closures are the result of an increase in Vp, additional monitoring, the increase of triploid (genetically modified) oysters which are more "edible" during summer, or a combination is not known.

For a report from August 23 listing all areas closed and why, see the Olympic Penninsula Environmental News here. It does not include the most recent Samish Bay closure but does include areas closed for other reasons (e.g., biotoxins).

Department of Health contacts for various closures follow.  

Closure Explanations and Program Contacts: 
  BIOTOXIN - Biotoxin sample results exceed DOH closure standards
       Contact Frank Cox 360-236-3309 or Jerry Borchert 360-236-3328
  WWTP - A Wastewater Treatment Plant Malfunction
       Contact Mark Toy  360-236-3321
  HAZMAT - Hazardous Materials Substance Spill
       Contact Mark Toy  360-236-3321
  RAIN - The Conditionally Approved growing area is closed due to pollution associated with rainfall
       Contact Scott Berbells 360-236-3324
  MARINA - Seasonal Use Marina Closure
       Contact Mark Toy 360-236-3321
  FLOODING - Growing area is closed due to contamination from river flooding
       Contact Scott Berbells 360-236-3324
  EMERGENCY - Other public health emergency
       Contact Office Mainline 360-236-3330
  VIBRIO - A closure due to the naturally occurring pathogenic marine bacteria "Vibrio parahaemolyticus"
       Contact Richard Lillie 360-236-3313
  NO PSP SAMPLE / NO HARVEST - Geoduck tracts.  Must sample for PSP prior to harvest
       Contact Frank Cox 360-236-3309 or Jerry Borchert 360-236-3328

Friday, August 24, 2012

Taylor Shellfish Asks for Mussel Farm Permit Denial

Taylor Shellfish's attorney  has advised them to ask their permit application for a new mussel farm in Totten Inlet be denied so they may appeal that decision to the Shoreline Hearings Board. Has corporate shellfish aquaculture become the industry fragmenting the shorelines which Shoreline Management Act was passed to control?

Taylor Shellfish's current mussel farm in Totten Inlet.

Oyster bags in Totten Inlet

Taylor Shellfish has asked the Thurston County Hearing Examiner to deny their Substantial Shoreline Development Permit. Rather than supply the examiner with additional information addressing questions about about cumulative impacts shellfish farming is having in Totten Inlet, Taylor Shellfish will instead appeal the denial they are asking for to the Shoreline Hearings Board.
[see Hearing Examiner's options presented to Taylor Shellfish here]

After the Hearing Examiner issues his decision, "requests for reconsideration" will be allowed to be submitted within a 10 day period. Was the impact on shoreline residents and wildlife near the "assembly and maintenance" area of the rafts at the "Old Plant" adequately addressed? Will "retaining nets" ensure all the plastic discs which come loose are kept on site? After any "requests for reconsideration" have been addressed the question of whether Taylor Shellfish should be allowed to install 58 mussel rafts at the mouth of Totten Inlet will move to the Shoreline Hearing Board.

When is enough too much?
For over 14 years now APHETI (the Association for the Protection of Hammersley, Eld and Totten Inlets) has questioned whether a permit for the installation of a mussel farm of the size and density proposed is correct. As a direct result of their efforts and others (e.g., Case Inlet Shoreline Association "CISA") it is now being asked whether corporate shellfish farming in south Puget Sound has reached a point where the Shoreline Management Act's (SMA) original assumptions of shellfish aquaculture no longer apply.

If you wish to receive email updates from APHETI you may send an email to: APHETI@gmail.com If you wish to help ensure the Shoreline Management Act is applied as intended, both APHETI and CISA are 501(c)3 non-profit organizations. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Hood Canal Oysters Recalled

An outbreak of vibriosis has initiated a recall of oysters harvested after August 16 from Hood Canal's Area 5 (just north of the southern "Great Bend"). Vibriosis, caused by the naturally occurring bacteria Vibrio parahaemolyticus (Vp) is an annual problem during the summer months for Washington's shellfish growers, moreso for those who become ill. Unlike most who contract vibriosis, reported cases are not getting better.

(Note: The above numbers do not
include unreported cases, only those
confirmed by laboratory testing.)

Last year China banned the import of oysters from Washington State due to a similar outbreak and recall. Taylor Shellfish spokesman Bill Dewey responded: “This has wreaked havoc on our export business,” he said (Puget Sound Business Journal, 9/30/2011). Those who got ill were not interviewed for their response to what havoc, economic or otherwise, vibriosis caused in their lives.

In response to the FDA issuing a recall of the contaminated oysters last year, the shellfish industry sent a delegation of representatives, attorneys and lobbyists to Washington D.C. with this message for Congressman: "Despite seemingly adequate efforts by firms and SSCAs [State Shellfish Control Authorities], the FDA has unilaterally decided to elevate recalls and issue press releases which have unnecessarily alarmed consumers and had significant economic consequences on shellfish growers and distributors." (From the Pacific Shellfish Grower's Association's "FDA's Communications practices Hurth Shellfish Producers" handout dated February 2012.) It is unclear what "adequate efforts" industry lobbyists were referring to. What is clear is vibriosis is not under control.

As Governor Gregoire presses forward to expand the shellfish industry she should consider what she is leaving as her legacy. Scientists on her "Blue Ribbon Panel" have questioned whether the shellfish industry's expansion is something which should be promoted. Washington State's shellfish are causing increasing numbers of Vibriosis and other diseases. Warming temperatures can be expected to increase these numbers. She might consider listening to what her appointed scientists are saying. 


Friday, August 17, 2012

DNR Retains SEPA Decision for Taylor Shellfish Harvesting of Geoduck on State Tidelands Trespassed On

In this SEPA decision we see what we want to see (or in the case of salmon during dive harvesting, not much).

What does dive harvesting look like?
or click on arrow below for the full 25 minutes
(also note the discarded geoduck tubes)
Selective science? In the case of DNR's Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) on deeper subtidal harvesting, as it applies to intertidal dive harvesting, we read what we want to read.[click here for complete SEIS]
Part of this study looked at a "liberal" 10,000 geoduck-per-acre tract being harvested versus the typical 60,000+ geoduck per acre in a commercial farm. Hardly the same.
Yet, the SEIS clearly states sediment plumes do not "settle out quickly" as DNR and NMFS authors state in the SEPA documents. In fact, dive harvesting of geoduck clearly shows a far greater impact to the water column and sediments than was considered by DNR and NMFS.
After 20 minutes at 1.0 m/sec current speed, the [sediment] clouds with up to 10 mg/l of TSS were 170 m [>500'] down current from the diver. (page 33, SEIS) (Note: A 10 mg/l increase in TSS increased turbidity 6 NTU units. WAC 173-201A-210(1)(e) does not allow an increase of over 5 NTU.) There is no indication any consideration was given to the unique location of this farm and currents.
The shoreward boundary [of -18 feet] protects shallow water geoducks, minimizes impacts on nearby shoreline residents, and helps protect eelgrass beds and other sensitive nearshore habitats. (page 10, SEIS) Nothing indicates consideration was given to the species within the sediments between where the geoduck were planted and the -18 foot depth. Further, if DNR is concerned about impacts to shoreline residents, why not restrict dive harvesting to daylight hours only? 
Most of this material -- the coarser sediments -- settles immediately to the bottom and forms a berm round the harvest hole, while the fine material (particle size less than 63 microns) settles much more slowly and remains in the water for longer periods. (page 31, SEIS) Statements that sediments "settle out quickly" are simply not scientifically based.
Look a little deeper.
The Department of Natural Resources has retained its SEPA mitigated determination of non-significance (MDNS) decision which will allow Taylor Shellfish to dive harvest up to 70% of the geoduck planted on state owned tidelands. One commenter noted DNR's Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) on subtidal dive harvesting limited harvest activity to no shallower than 18 feet below mean low lower water (MLLW). DNR responded the EIS and SEIS were not intended to be used for intertidal (shallow) dive harvesting, despite the papers clearly noting impacts to the water column and shallow area from dive harvesting. DNR went on to respond the 18' depth limit was primarily to address shoreline resident concerns about "noise and commotion from harvest activities" and to avoid "eelgrass and herring spawning areas". It responded further by referencing National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) letters. Neither reference any studies looking at dive harvesting of an intertidal commercial farm which has over 60,000 geoduck per acre, because none exist. Instead they rely on inferences from observations of harvesting activities performed out of water at small farms, in some cases at midnight, and low density wild harvesting to reach the conclusion there is no impact. NMFS states sediment disturbance is no different than naturally occurring wave action, seeming to overlook the fact that 3' of sediments are liquefied and geoduck planted in densities of up to 3 per square foot are being extracted. Waves and currents both have an immediate and ongoing effect on sediments which are carried far further than those disturbed by "dry" harvesting. The stratified sediment composition which had formed over millennium from waves and current is turned upside down in harvesting.
Southern Resident Orca, August 2011
(At the mouth of Hammersley Inlet
which passed directly by Taylor's farm
in Pickering Passage.)
In response to concerns of Southern Resident Orca which frequent the area, NMFS states the vessels used are "slow moving" and pose no risk. In fact, the vessels used by the shellfish industry are some of the largest and fastest vessels on Puget Sound. The fact that geoduck need to be moved directly from harvesting to the airport for delivery in China the next day has to make one wonder what era of shellfish harvesting NMFS was thinking about. It's not grandfather Taylor's oyster farm anymore.    
This is slow moving?
Commissioner Goldmark and the Aquatic Division of DNR have tried to do their best in protecting the intertidal shoreline habitat for future generations. They have tried to rely on science to base decisions on. But pressures are building to convert what few remaining public tidelands there are into industrial shellfish farms for the benefit of a few corporate owners who will become very rich while Washington State's citizens loose access to the few public tidelands which remain. Taylor Shellfish should never have been allowed to plant where they did. Taylor Shellfish trespassed and as part of the settlement agreement they are allowed to harvest their geoduck, at great profit (~$2 million). What should not be allowed now is for this SEPA decision to be used as the basis for future decisions.
The area where Taylor Shellfish
planted geoduck without a lease agreement.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Vibrio Testing Closes Oakland Bay to Commercial Oyster Harvesting, Drakes Bay Oysters Recalled

The Department of Health has told shellfish farmers in Oakland Bay (Shelton) to stop harvesting oysters due to the naturally occurring bacteria Vibrio parahaemolyticus (Vp). A pilot program's testing for tlh (an indicator of how much Vp is present) resulted in 9,300 MPN/gram (most probable number), far above the action number of 100 MPN/gram.

Vibrio parahaemolyticus

Vp is present in Puget Sound waters year round, but warm summer months, salinity and turbidity all increase its numbers within the water column dramatically. Oysters, being filter feeders, accumulate this bacteria which is then consumed by humans, causing vibriosis [read here about Vp]. During the winter months it is found concentrated in the sediments and may be introduced into the water column through sediment disturbance.

As of yet no recalls of oysters harvested from Oakland Bay, Totten Inlet, and, Hood Canal area #8 have been issued. Illnesses traced back to oysters harvested, or testing from these areas, have indicated elevated levels of Vp to be present. The coming warm days are expected to increase the risk further.

Drakes Bay Oyster Company
Issues Recall for Infected Oysters

In the past, "after-the-fact" recalls were initiated only after an indeterminate number of people became sick.  In California, after illnesses of vibriosis were reported, the source was tracked back to oysters harvested by Drakes Bay Oyster Company between July 17 and August 8.  [read here for Drakes Bay Oyster Company recall] Washington's Department of Health is trying to be more pro-active by requiring harvesting to stop, before infected oysters enter the food stream.

Until prevented from entering into the food stream perhaps legislators and the FDA should simply require post harvest processing of oysters harvested where Vp is known to occur. The expense to the state from testing would be lessened and the economic hardships brought on by illnesses contracted from infected oysters would be minimized.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Vibriosis Closes Totten Inlet Oyster Harvesting - More in the Future?

From the Department of Health: Totten Inlet growing area is now closed for oyster harvest effective immediately. This reduction will remain in effect until September 30, 2012. In addition to Totten Inlet, Dabob Bay and Hood Canal area number 8 have also been closed to commercial harvesting

Vibriosis is caused by the naturally occurring bacteria named Vibrio parahaemolyticus (Vp). Oysters filter and retain this bacteria. When these oysters are consumed raw or undercooked Vibriosis is contracted.  A separate species of Vibrio, Vibrio vulnificus (Vv), is found in oysters harvested in the gulf states during the summer. The disease contracted by Vv is fatal in 50% of the cases. While not yet present in Puget Sound's cooler waters, the general warming trend is expected to result in both Vibrio species to become present.

"It's not going real well."
Bill Dewey, Taylor Shellfish

Last fall, Bill Dewey of Taylor Shellfish was asked by Food Safety News how well the industry was doing at minimizing illnesses caused by the more virulent Vv.  "It's not going real well," he told Food Safety News. "Some states are really struggling with it, both from an enforcement standpoint as well as an industry implementation standpoint," said Dewey, whose own state deals with other species of Vibrio bacteria -- Vibrio parahaemolyticus -- which are generally less deadly than Vibrio vulnificus but can also cause gastroenteritis.
Challenges include keeping trucks chilled in hot summer months and finding adequate space to store and chill oysters, among others, he explained.
(click here for full article)

For over 10 years the shellfish industry has been unsuccessful at controlling the outbreaks from the deadlier species of Vv, of which 1/2 die. Only California, which banned Gulf state oysters which have not been processed was successful in eliminating the disease (read more on Vv here). Oysters from Washington State continue to infect people with Vp. Last fall China recalled all oysters harvested from Washington and refused shipments due to Vp concerns (click here).

As the Governor and others press for a significant expansion of the shellfish industry it may be wise to consider whether they are truly prepared for what an expanded industry will bring with it. The "Blue Ribbon Panel" on Ocean Acidification has clearly established that tied to CO2 emissions are rising temperatures. For over 10 years the shellfish industry has been trying to stop Vv in oysters from infecting people. As Mr. Dewey says, "It's not going real well."

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Pierce County Shoreline Master Program Update

Next meeting: August 15, 2012
Fife Community Center
2111 54th Ave E, Fife
(click here for Pierce County website)

Pierce County held another public meeting on its Shoreline Master Program (SMP) update on August 1 (read Gateline.com article here). The meeting began with the county's biologist, Dave Griswold, expressing his belief that concerns about corporate aquaculture were founded in conflicts with shoreline owners. He went on to note studies from NOAA support the belief there was not a likelihood of significant impact and he did not find aquaculture to be intrinsically harmful to the shoreline. Mr. Griswold is deeply mistaken.

Not intrinsically harmful?

Look a little deeper.

That shoreline residents were the first to lift the veil and expose the growing impacts from unregulated corporate aquaculture should be no surprise. They were first hand witnesses to the  transformation of Puget Sound's tidelands occurring through industrial methods of aquaculture being developed. Protecting Puget Sound for the future of everyone through regulations is fully accepted and understood by shoreline property owners. It is why they and growing numbers of people are now expressing deep concerns about growing industrial aquaculture and corporate influence at meetings such as that held August 1. Industry's clear goal is minimizing any regulations which would impact their profits.

Corporate shellfish companies understand the importance of controlling regulations and government influence. They understand how to craft regulations to their liking, and when things do not go as they wish, how to deflect the focus into another area. If they become lost in the process they use lobbyists such as Jim Jesernig or public relations firms such as Gallatin Public Affairs to help get back on the path.

Jim Jesernig
Corporate Lobbyist

Currently, Washington's Shellfish Initiative is being used to begin minimizing regulatory oversight through "streamlining" the permit process in the name of "jobs" and "filter feeding." Taylor Shellfish's attorney wrote a letter to Kitsap County whose shoreline planner said could be considered a demand for a complete rewrite of the aquaculture section (read Kitsap Sun article here). The Governor's "Blue Ribbon Panel" on Ocean Acidification is being lead to believe "shellfish are critical to maintain clean water" when in fact it is clean water which is critical for shellfish (i.e., did shellfish clean Lake Washington's waters?).

Governor Gregoire with Bill Dewey,
Taylor Shellfish Government Relations

Using comments from NOAA to support the belief of no intrinsic harm is deeply flawed. NOAA, part of the Department of Commerce, is tasked with implementing the National Shellfish Initiative, not protecting Puget Sound's nearshore environment. If Mr. Griswold wishes Pierce County to use a Biological Opinion he should instead consider the US Fish and Wildlife* (USFWS) who is tasked with "Conserving the Nature of America."

The USFWS 2009 Biological Opinion had this to say:
If shellfish are present at "natural" levels, their filtering activities would not upset the balance of the intertidal food web. However, aquaculture species are mostly non-native, planted at high densities, and filter larger quantities of water (phytoplankton) than the native oysters. Therefore, they may have a competitive advantage and reduce available food for other planktivores. This may be a more significant issue in confined or isolated embayment [such as Burley Lagoon]. (page 124)
Areas with a higher degree of susceptability are primarily semi-enclosed tidal lagoons and estuaries with low-energy hydrodynamics features and are shallow in depth (Cranford et al. 2008, p. 5). Areas within the south Puget Sound action area would likely meet this description, and if aquaculture were present at sufficient densities, similar effects would be expected. (page 124)
Bed culture also affects the benthic community. Oyster bags are laid directly on the substrate over large areas of the intertidal shoreline covering the benthic community. (page 127) (click here)*The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.
Unpermitted Structures in Totten Inlet
Good for the benthic community?

Puget Sound's Shoreline Management Act was created to prevent the fragmentation of Puget Sound's near shore environment for all of its citizens. Aquaculture then was practiced as it had been for generations. Then, it was benign. Since then shoreline property owners have seen the changes in methods and have seen the fragmentation of tidelands and waters unfolding. They, in fact, are the canary in the coal mine, and with others, are being heard as Pierce County and other counties update their Shoreline Master Programs.

These updates are critical to the future of Puget Sound and, if well written, will ensure future generations - no matter where they live - have a healthy Puget Sound to experience. Mr. Griswold will hopefully come to appreciate this point as more citizens submit comments.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Burley Lagoon: Taylor Shellfish Is Having a Party

Taylor Shellfish is Having a Party
Organized by Gallatin Public Affairs
("Strategists, Lobbyists, Communicators")

Thursday, August 16, 2012
5:30 PM - 7:00 PM
Taylor Shellfish Property
6721 Tyee Dr. NW
Gig Harbor, WA 98332
Please RSVP to Anna Boone
"Taylor Shellfish invites you to a special business reception for local businesses in and around Burley Lagoon. We’ll share information about our clean-up efforts and future business plans in Burley Lagoon. We want to meet our new neighbors and we hope you can join us for a casual evening, featuring world famous Taylor shellfish for your enjoyment." (from a flier being distributed in the Burley Lagoon area)

Burley Lagoon
Purdy, WA
Important wildlife habitat or industrial aquaculture?
What will Gallatin's "strategists and lobbyists"
tell Taylor Shellfish to call it?
Taylor Shellfish has hired Gallatin Pubic Affairs in Seattle to help explain what it apparently cannot: What will it be doing to Burley Lagoon? Who is Gallatin Public Affairs? "We are strategists, lobbyists, communicators, policy experts,..."
(click here for GPA webite)

It should not be unexpected nor surprising to read about Taylor Shellfish hiring a lobbying firm to do what they cannot. As noted in the prior post, they will be generating close to $2 million in profits from geoduck planted on the state tidelands they were found to be trespassing on. They have the money to hire attorneys and lobbyists to press for what they want. They have become a large corporation used to getting their way.

Given the experts at Gallatin have suggested Taylor Shellfish ask for "neighbors" to come, perhaps they won't mind having the local residents also show up to speak both to Taylor Shellfish directly and to those businesses who may be present. The local businesses may find their customer base feels differently than what Gallatin is trying to craft.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

DNR Requests Comments on $2.6 million Geoduck Harvest by Taylor Shellfish to Resolve Trespass

Comments due August 13
Email: sepacenter@dnr.wa.gov
Include file number 12-073001

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has issued a request for comments on a SEPA mitigated determination of non-significance (MDNS) for a proposal by Taylor Shellfish to harvest geoduck planted on state owned tidelands without a lease. Over 50% will be "dive harvested" in shallow waters. (SEPA Documents here)

Presumed Taylor Shellfish Trespass Area
On State Tidelands below Mean Low Tide
(south of Allyn on Pickering Passage)
(click to enlarge)
2006, DOE Coastal Atlas

In 2010 a DNR investigation into trespass on state tidelands found that Taylor Shellfish had been growing geoduck without a lease agreement on a state owned tideland parcel below mean low tide. The 2010 settlement terms for this trespass included allowing Taylor Shellfish to harvest the now ~175,000 pounds of geoduck on 1.8 acres. At a conservative $15/pound, the gross revenues from these geoducks alone approaches $2.6 million. Estimated net profit to Taylor Shellfish will be near $2 million. The state's Attorney General settled three cases in 2010, one against Taylor for $225,000 plus the right to harvest the planted shellfish (click here for the Kitsap Sun article).