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, September 27, 2012

Department of Ecology Tells Jefferson County its Shoreline Plan Must Permit Salmon Farms

There is no evidence that open net-cage salmon farms can operate near wild salmon without increasing the risk of disease and parasites, among other environmental impacts from escapes, pollution and predator control. [Jay Ritchlin, David Suzuki Foundation]

In callous disregard to years of work spent updating Jefferson County's Shoreline Master Program, the Department of Ecology (DOE) has told Jefferson County they will not accept the plan if salmon farms ("net pens") are not allowed. Jefferson County's position is salmon farms are not "dependent" on being sited in open waters, clearly supported by numerous upland operations throughout the world. Of course it costs more, but what is the cost of losing Puget Sound's wild stock of salmon?

Upland fish farm

Despite clear scientific evidence of open-water operations spreading sea lice to surrounding waters; infections creating the need for antibiotics which spread in the waters of Puget Sound and virus spreading to wild salmon; the need for large amounts of forage fish to be harvested in order to feed the penned salmon; and, an inability to guarantee these "couch potato salmon" will not escape and genetically degrade the wild stock or habitat supporting that wild stock, DOE has told Jefferson County to create a path for permitting. [click here for a presentation by Dr. Lawrence Dill on salmon farming, courtesy of Olympic Peninsula Environmental News]

Sea lice

Once that path is in place, economic forces will drive the car down that road, no matter how bumpy, to overcome whatever objections there may be. As seen in too many cases, hiring attorneys and scientists to support a position is too easy for large corporations to do and difficult for counties and citizens to match.

The time to prevent this proven risk to Puget Sound is now, by telling DOE "No. We will not allow a path for permitting net pens in our SMP."

DOE: "Trust us. This is good for Jefferson County."

Puget Sound has economic value far greater than its ability to farm sea food. Its ability to support native wild stock of salmon and native shellfish should not be threatened by the economics of aquaculture. Jefferson County should be applauded for wanting to protect Puget Sound by telling DOE: "Our decisions will not be driven by the economics of aquaculture."

Get involved, industry is. Call Representative Tharinger: (360) 786-7904 or Representative Van De Wege (360) 786-7916 and tell them you support Jefferson County.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Editorial: Preserving wilderness areas vital to maintaining the health of Puget Sound

"Protecting our region’s natural assets is far cheaper than restoring what we’ve destroyed."
[Read editorial by Mr. Ruckelshaus and Ms. Konsgaard here]

In an op-ed piece co-authored by Mr. Bill Ruckelshaus, co-chair of Governor Gregoire's "Blue Ribbon Panel" on ocean acidification, he writes about the importance of protecting the region's natural resources. As the first head of the Environmental Protection Agency and at the age of 80, Mr. Ruckelshaus has seen over his lifetime how ecosystems become fragmented and transformation of landscapes occur.

He has seen how individually, small projects appear in the short term to have minimal impacts. Decades later, he has seen how those individual projects combine and transform entire ecosystems which will never be recovered. This perspective gained over time gives insight few have and is what the future of the Olympic Penninsula, Puget Sound's tidelands and species are dependent on. These ecosystems are changing and with that change, species dependent on them are leaving which will never return.

The future of Puget Sound's tidelands are at a turning point. The committee which Mr. Ruckelshaus co-chairs and the organization which co-author Ms. Kongsgaard is the current chair of, the Puget Sound Partnership, provide them key roles to help determine what that future will be.

Yesterday and today NOAA and the Department of Ecology made presentations at the Pacific Shellfish Growers Association's 2012 Annual Conference. Presentations included how the Washington Shellfish Initiative's "streamlining of permits" would be implemented, and on the Shoreline Master Programs which are currently being updated by a number of counties.

The shellfish industry is well versed in the political process and in how to craft regulations controlling what they want to do. They are well financed through the immense revenues gained from China's obsession with geoducks. If science does not agree with their point of view, complaints are filed through the "Data Quality Act". Scientists can then be hired to create the data quality they seek.

Support for the Wild Olympics Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 2012, currently stalled in Congress, is important. So too is an understanding that the tidelands of the Olympic Penninsula are as critical to preserve, if not more so. Both Mr. Ruckelshaus and Ms. Kongsgaard, through their respective positions, are able to exert great influence on what the future Puget Sound's tidelands will be. If they are destroyed, they cannot be restored.

Read more here: http://www.thenewstribune.com/2012/09/26/2310755/preserving-wilderness-areas-vital.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.thenewstribune.com/2012/09/26/2310755/preserving-wilderness-areas-vital.html#storylink=cpy

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Washington Mussels Send Seven to the Hospital

Seven people were hospitalized after consuming mussels harvested from Discovery Bay. In this case it was not a bacteria in the shellfish but an algae named Alexandrium, filtered and retained by the shellfish, which produces deadly neurotoxins. If neurotoxin levels are high enough, shellfish which are consumed cause Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP). Cooking does not remove the neurotoxins. In the case of the seven hospitalized one had to be placed on a ventilator. [read article here]

Nutrients in deep sea upwellings flowing into Puget Sound and warming water temperatures from global climate change will likely lead to increasing problems from this deadly form of phytoplankton. Combined with increasing illnesses from Puget Sound shellfish which have filtered and retained vibrio, it appears we have in fact crossed an environmental threshold and are entering into unknown waters.

Oakland Bay Closed to Commercial Harvesting of Oysters

The naturally occurring bacteria Vibrio parahaemolyticus has again caused Oakland Bay to be closed to commercial harvesting of oysters. This is in addition to Hammersley Inlet, Pickering Passage, Totten Inlet, Little Skookum Inlet in south Puget Sound and Samish Bay near Anacortes which have also been closed due to illnesses contracted from oysters harvested from those areas.

The Washington Department of Health notes 2006 was most likely the year that an environmental threshold was crossed.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Pierce County Planning Commission to Hear Final Shoreline Rules

Tuesday, September 25, 2012, 9:00 A.M.
Public Meeting Room, 2401 So. 35th St.
Note: The Shoreline Master Program information will be presented later in the meeting, perhaps near 10AM or 10:30AM.
Pierce County Shoreline Regulations Update – continued
The Pierce County Planning Commission will continue final consideration and recommendations of the proposed amendments to the Pierce County Shoreline Master Program (SMP) and related Pierce County Codes. No public testimony will be heard. The latest information related to the update can be found at: http://www.piercecountywa.org/shoreline.
Contact: Deirdre Wilson, Senior Planner, (253) 798-3736

Puget Sound tidelands and shorelines are a treasure which is under immense pressure. Pierce County's Shoreline Master Program will determine how development of those areas are regulated. Pierce County residents need to be sure their concerns are reflected in those regulations as clearly as those of corporate interests are.

"It's imperative that you do something, even if you don't think it's going to do any good."
David Attenborough, The Economist, September 22-28, 2012

Burley Lagoon
Tidelands and waters now under
development by Taylor Shellfish.
Proposal? A 30 acre geoduck farm.
Totten Inlet

Friday, September 21, 2012

Shellfish Alchemy: Turning CO2 into Nitrogen

In December of 2011, after Bill Dewey with Taylor Shellfish commented on Govenor Gregoire having been "dressed down" by the shellfish industry for not acting on water pollution, the Governor announced the Washington Shellfish Initiative, including the formation of a "Blue Ribbon Panel" to address ocean acidification. [click here for Bill Dewey's comment] Due to the deep sea upwellings of low pH ("acidic") waters, the "natural" sets of non-native Pacific oysters in Willapa Bay have ceased and hatcheries have seen their production rates of this genetically modified non-native species of oyster drop dramatically.

Taylor Shellfish Hatchery
Dabob Bay, Hood Canal
Taylor changed their source of water to a deeper level
where typically lower pH (more acidic)
waters exist. How this helped is unclear.

Since March of this year the "Blue Ribbon Panel" has been meeting to determine what can be done to address CO2 and the lowering pH levels, with increasing focus on assistance for the shellfish industry. So much so that panel members have expressed varying concerns. Some are concerned of the perception that this significant effort in time and money is only for the benefit of the shellfish industry. Some question whether it is appropriate to focus on problems a non-native genetically modified (triploid) oyster has with lowering pH levels [click here for a study showing how different varieties of oyster have little trouble with lower pH levels]. Finally, some question whether the "alchametic" change in focus from CO2 to nitrogen is appropriate and whether deep sea upwellings will overwhelm any attempts made at the local level, whether it be CO2 or nitrogen. While these and other questions are appropriate, the evolving focus on whether local sources of nitrogen is the cause of lowering pH levels may be most appropriate.

There is no question CO2 is altering the world we live in. It can be clearly linked to rising temperatures and the lowering pH levels. Not so easily linked is how nitrogen decreases pH levels, and if it does, whether the local sources of nitrogen are even significant. The shellfish industry would certainly have us believe human activities along Puget Sound's shoreline are the primary source, perhaps best reflected in a sentence from an article by Jim Gibbons, owner of Seattle Shellfish: Excessive nutrients largely come from human activities that generate nitrogen, including broken or undersized septic systems, lawn fertilizers, storm water runoff, farm runoff, and pet wastes. (South Sound Green Pages, 2008) (Note: Jim Gibbons also testified before state legislators of his consideration to sue the state over "excess nitrogen.")

A matter of scale: Satellite image of the
annual algal bloom off Washington's coast.
Nutrient source: deep sea waters. When combined
with warming temperatures, large blooms result.
Algae is both a food source and absorbs CO2. Is that bad?

It appears, however, humans being the primary source of nitrogen in Puget Sound's Hood Canal is not the case. A September 14, 2012, report from the EPA and the Department of Ecology "...concluded that human sources of nitrogen contributing to low-oxygen events in the mainstem of Hood Canal were "insignificant," while evidence linking humans to oxygen problems in the more troubled area near the canal's end in Lynch Cove "is not strong."
"The overwhelming causes of fish kills, the agencies concluded, are the geography of the canal and ocean conditions." (Seattle Times, September 18, 2012)

There is little question the shellfish industry has both created the "Blue Ribbon Panel" and has moved the focus from CO2 emissions to nutrient reduction, specifically nitrogen. So doing now runs the risk of deflating the balloon which may have helped lift awareness of excess CO2 emissions and its impact. If it is perceived the majority of actions recommended only address the problems a non-native and genetically modified oyster is having in adapting to conditions which other shellfish are not having, an opportunity will have been lost, and a great deal of time and money will have been lost. The scientists and committee members are all intelligent enough to know you cannot turn lead into gold. It is unlikely CO2 can be turned into nitrogen.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Taylor Shellfish Mussel Farm Permit Denied, As Taylor Requested?

The Thurston County Hearing Examiner has denied Taylor Shellfish's shoreline substantial development permit for a 58 raft mussel farm in Totten Inlet. In the initial decision it was stated that cumulative impacts were not adequately considered. [click here for denial]
[click here for initial determination]

When given the opportunity to provide evidence showing cumulative impacts were not significant Taylor Shellfish's attorneys advised them to ask the Hearing Examiner to deny the permit. Perhaps a first, where an applicant applies then says "please deny me."

Look a little deeper and you may find
something they don't want you to see.

Why would Taylor Shellfish ask for a denial? It's certainly not the expense incurred in an appeal of a denial. The shellfish corporations are generating immense profits from geoduck farming with little in the way of expenses and virtually nothing in the form of taxes to the State and Counties. For example, on the 1.8 acres of State owned tidelands Taylor Shellfish was found to be trespassing on an estimated net profit (after expenses) of over $1.5 million will be generated. In an appeal, the legal expenses, fees paid to scientists to create favorable studies, and the expense of hiring public relations firms to create favorable public perceptions all help to reduce Federal taxable income. Property taxes paid for geoduck acreage is virtually non-existent (e.g., in Mason County, 15 acres owned by Taylor Shellfish in Hammersley Inlet from which tens of thousands of pounds of geoduck are harvested from, is charged $16 in property tax) and as most are exported, there is no sales tax revenue generated.

Representation without Taxation

Given the immense profits Taylor Shellfish is generating and the deductible nature of the expenses to appeal, it is more likely that Taylor Shellfish is simply playing a poker game. They are telling citizens and counties who are concerned about the expansion of corporate shellfish farming, "I can afford to appeal this forever. Can you?"

Alternatively, it may very well be they are simply stalling the process. Why? Most likely is they are simply waiting for their political influence to work its way through the updating of county shoreline master plans, a process both Mason County and Thurston County are currently involved in.

Specific to this proposal, Totten Inlet is not all regulated by Thurston County. It is split, with the western half controlled by Mason County. Currently, Mason County is in the process of updating their Shoreline Master Program which Taylor Shellfish has been directly involved in. Seattle Shellfish's Steve Bloomfield is a Mason County Commissioner as is longtime shellfish farm owner Commissioner Tim Sheldon. At a recent presentation, Mason County stated that the conditional use permit for mussel rafts is being "streamlined."

Corporate shellfish farmers are directly involved in shaping the regulations impacting the future of Puget Sound. As Jim Gibbons with Seattle Shellfish extolled to state legislators, Spain is growing 600 million pounds of mussels each year in an area the size of south Puget Sound (south of the Tacoma Narrows). This is equivalent to 24,000 mussel rafts in south Puget Sound. This is his "vision" and the vision of corporate shellfish companies for the future of Puget Sound. Should cumulative impacts be considered? Taylor Shellfish thinks not, for obvious reasons. You should.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Vibriosis Closes Samish Bay to Commercial Oyster Harvesting - Again

Illness caused by oysters harvested from Samish Bay has once again closed the area to the commercial harvesting of oysters. As the Department of Health noted last week, the warm weather forecast for the coming weeks will likely increase the risk of contracting vibriosis from undercooked or raw oysters. Global climate change will most likely push that risk into the coming years.

This year it was noted by a high ranking Department of Health official that the 2006 peak of vibriosis contracted from oysters harvested in Washington state is now looking like a turning point in how global climate change (warming temperatures) is impacting whether shellfish harvested from Puget Sound are healthy to eat. When Bill Dewey with Taylor Shellfish was asked how controlling Vibrio vulnificus (a separate species of Vibrio found in the warmer waters of the Gulf States) was going, he answered, "It's not going real well." [read Food Safety article here] It would appear the same answer would apply to how controlling the spread of Vp through Washington's oysters is going.

As Governor Gregoire and agencies are pressured to allow corporate shellfish farming to expand in Puget Sound's tidelands and waters, they might consider first prioritizing the control of a known and most likely growing risk to consumers of shellfish: the naturally occurring bacteria named Vibrio parahaemolyticus and, if temperatures cause Puget Sound waters to warm, its more deadly cousin, Vibrio vulnificus. As those who contract vibriosis would most likely agree, at this point, "It's not going real well."

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Preparing a Beach for a Geoduck Farm: Coming to a Tideland Near You

The following images show how to prepare a beach for a geoduck "farm." Revenues generated are more than adequate to help pay attorneys and scientists to help craft regulations which will allow for the expansion of this shoreline development. Unfortunately, those responsible for protecting the intertidal ecosystem either believe them or are intimidated by them. [hear Seattle Shellfish owner Jim Gibbons tell state legislators about hiring attorneys and public relations firms when considering whether to sue the state]
Step 1: Clear the beach of any aquatic vegetation and "pests".
[click here for previous post on what the shellfish
industry considers to be "pests"]
(photo courtesy of CISA)
Step 2: Be sure those "pests" don't come back.
In the case of a Moon Snail, rebar is an effective deterrent.
(photo courtesy of CISA)
Step 3: Survey the beach just to be sure nothing is missed
(e.g., Sand Dollars or Rock Crab).
(photo courtesy of CISA)
Step 4: Begin placing the "structure" scientists say
is so useful for Puget Sound's sea life. If a few become loose,
just know "Best Management Practices" tried to contain them.
(photo courtesy of CISA)
If you care about Puget Sound's intertidal shoreline area get involved in the public process. The shellfish industry is and has been, most recently in "streamlining" the federal and state permit process without public input and in crafting updated county regulations. What you see is what they want. [click here for Pierce County Shoreline Master Program update and September 25 meeting]

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Penn Cove Avoids Biotoxin Closure, Department of Health Warns of Warm Temperatures and Vibrio

September 7, 2012, Department of Health closes the following area to recreational and sport shellfish digging due to biotoxins in shellfish:
In Island County, all of Saratoga Passage to include east Whidbey Island from Strawberry Point south to Possession Point including Crescent Harbor, Oak Harbor and Holmes Harbor and west Camano Island from Brown Point south to Camano Head. Penn Cove is not included in the closure.
[click here for additional information on recreational closures]
Note: Commercial closures are listed separately.
[Click here for commercial closure information. Registration may be necessary.]

Area closed to recreational harvesting September 7 
due to elevated levels of biotoxins in shellfish.

Note: After additional research, the Department of Health found one of the illnesses attributed to a Samish Bay oyster was "guilt by association." Samish Bay oysters were only "on hand" in the restaurant where the raw oysters causing illness were consumed. Taylor Shellfish and Chuckanut Shellfish, among others, are now able to harvest oysters again. However, noted by the Department of Health: "Two cautionary notes: (1) It will take only one more illness to reclose Samish Bay; and (2) Unusually hot weather is expected over the next week, so caution should be exercised in the harvest and handling of oysters intended for raw consumption."

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Eelgrass and Ocean Acidification: Actions Based on Science or Corporate Profits?

"...the more man interferes with nature the greater become the problems he creates." (Maurice Yonge, Oysters, 1960 p. 189).

From a September 5, 2012 email from the Depatment of Ecology: "Ecology is in the process of developing a permit to allow treatment of Japanese eelgrass on commercial clam beds in Willapa Bay. The applicants [shellfish companies] have asked to treat [eradicate] the Japanese eelgrass [in Willapa Bay] with the aquatic herbicide imazamox."

For six months the Department of Ecology has been hosting the "Blue Ribbon Panel" on Ocean Acidification. Increased CO2 levels in marine waters has resulted in increased acidity (lower pH). Impacted hardest has been Willapa Bay where oysters have been unable to "set" (grow) naturally and caused a shellfish hatchery to move its facilities to Hawaii [read Seattle Times article here]. High levels of CO2 have been directly linked to the lower pH levels, in turn linked directly to why larvae are unable to survive in Willapa Bay.

On June 20, of the 10 recommendations on adapting to Ocean Acidification, four were specifically related to eelgrass and aquatic vegetation:
Encourage shellfish/seagrass [eelgrass] co-cultivation
Investigate and develop seaweed farming
Restore eelgrass and kelp beds
Promote community-based programs to mitigate nutrient inputs (using shellfish and seaweeds)
[See "Initial Recommendations for Managing and Adapting to the Impacts of OA here]

Notes from that presentation on Ecology's website include: "... conservation of existing eelgrass beds may be more feasible and less expensive than cultivation of new beds." [see page 6 from summary notes here]

July 20 the ability of eelgrass to absorb CO2 was stressed again, noting eelgrass "sucking up all that CO2."
August 8, "Workgroup 3: Adaptation and Remediation" of the committee produced its final four recommendations. Eelgrass or use of aquatic vegetation to lower CO2? It has apparently been absorbed by the shellfish industry, respired as how to "fund my hatcheries and industry."
Action 2.1 Continue water quality monitoring at six existing shellfish hatcheries and rearing areas.
Action 2.2 Investigate efficacy of water treatment strategies and/or hatchery design to protect larvae from corrosive seawater.
Action 2.3 Investigate potential to breed and/or select OA-tolerant strains of shellfish and other vulnerable marine species.
Action 3.1 Prioritize investment in adaptation & remediation actions that provide future shellfish habitat capable of enduring a full suite of anticipated environmental changes.
[see Priority Action Recommendations here] 
Panel members are right to question whether too much money and time is being spent on hatcheries. Concerns noted the process was spending too much time focusing on how to get shellfish to survive in a hatchery so they can survive in the water instead of putting energy into how to get the water clean so they can grow naturally.  

When the preservation and expansion of eelgrass beds are dropped by the Blue Ribbon Panel and the Department of Ecology wants to eradicate beds in Willapa Bay where ocean acidification has had the largest impact, a very real risk of a perception that science has taken a back seat to corporate profits rises. Is that what the scientists and panel members want to be remembered for?