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:

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

January 17: Zangle Cove Appeal and Permit Hearing Rescheduled/Sohn Separates Tidelands

Zangle Cove Hearing Continued to Tuesday, January 17, 2017 at 10 a.m.
Thurston County Courthouse 
Building One, Room 152

Better bring lunch and dinner. 
The appeal of Thurston County's "Mitigated Determinatin of Non-significance" (MDNS) for a geoduck operation in the ecologically sensitive and enjoyed Zangle Cove and associated Shoreline Substantial Development Permit continues January 17. Based on an email from the Hearing Examiner, it may be a marathon, stretching into the night, noting parties should "... arrange to be available into the evening as late as necessary."

What are those tidelands really worth?

"I want to be a farmer." Be careful what you wish for, because your tidelands may now be taxed as "geoduck farmland" instead of open space. Unless lobbyists can prevent it.
As the hearing has progressed, Mr. Sohn has stated he wanted to be a farmer on his tideland parcel. Apparently to that end, or for some other reason, he has decided to separate his tidelands from his upland parcel. So doing creates the ability to now tax his tidelands at what their true value is, as tidelands created for a geoduck operation, instead of "open space" as they and others in Zangle Cove have been for decades in the past, affording an extremely low tax rate. For reference, Taylor Shellfish purchased 10 acres of tidelands, many used for growing geoduck, from Manke Timber in Mason County. Those 10 acres of tidelands are currently appraised at $872,000 (dropping slightly from $899,000 in 2013). If appraisers used "like sales" as they are supposed to, Mr. Sohn's 1.6 acres of tidelands, if used for a geoduck operation, would be appraised as high as $139,000.

Friday, December 23, 2016

British Columbia: Massive Chinese shellfish hatchery near completion on Sunshine Coast

Guess they're just not into you that much anymore.
Licensed to grow seed for geoduck, 
Pacific oyster, scallop and urchin.

Risk to investors and banks is a relative thing.
Apparently becoming aware that being beholden to a few shellfish operators in the United States was not an economically sustainable model, the Chinese are nearing completion of Phase 1 of what ultimately will be among the largest (if not the largest) shellfish hatchery and farming operations in North America. It will compete directly with current shellfish operators such as Taylor Shellfish and Coast Seafoods, who to date have had little real competition to disrupt pricing and distribution models which have existed for decades. How investors and those financing expansion will react to what appears to be a disruptive event is not known, but risk to returns is certainly elevated.

Comparison of Taylor Shellfish to Hummingbird Cove

Investors rule of thumb: Invest in an industry where anyone can make money. 
Yesterday, the Times Colonist wrote that Phase 1 of a Chinese owned shellfish hatchery facility in British Columbia is nearing completion and will cover over 34,000 square meters (365,000 square feet). By comparison, the Nisbet (Goose Point) hatchery facility moved from Willapa Bay to Hawaii is 20,000 square feet. Another perspective is seen in the image above, showing Taylor Shellfish's Quilcene Dabob Bay hatchery facility. Overlying the Taylor Shellfish facility in red is the estimated size of Phase 1. The Vancouver Sun has reported that Phase 2 is expected to result in a facility able to grow and export mature shellfish by the year 2020. Last year, Hatchery International reported that Hummingbird facility was approved to expand within a 27 hectare (~66 acre) area, outlined in blue and orange, an area dwarfing current facilities.

This Christmas, be careful what you ask for. You may just get it.
The shellfish industry for years has been lobbying at the federal, state and local levels to minimize regulatory oversight. Their success has been seen in many areas, ranging from minimizing eelgrass protection to convincing Mason County that tidelands sold under the "Bush Act" should be considered as existing shellfish farms. All aimed at allowing for an increased expansion of operations, then supply, and hoped for profits. That the Chinese business leaders were not born yesterday and can see a market controlled by only a few, for the benefit of those few, has resulted in a multi-million dollar investment by one company in Canada. Others will follow. Those shellfish grown will not be for Canada, but exported. When combined with expansion efforts in the US, a deflating commodity balloon may be what comes for Christmas.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Restoration of the Seattle Shoreline's Seawall Begins - Oyster Shell to Remain Permanently

Permanent habitat restoration taking place
along Seattle's shoreline.

These shells won't be removed in 2 years.
Using discarded oyster shell, the City of Seattle will create a 150' long underwater "bench" which will remain in place, creating permanent habitat for species in Puget Sound. It is one of a growing number of long term actions being taken to restore habitat in Puget Sound which will, over decades, benefit numerous species native to Puget Sound. Other projects being undertaken include bulkhead removal and soft armoring in order to restore the function feeder bluffs provide, through adding sediments to the tidelands of Puget Sound.

These cumulative impacts help.
Projects such as these, as small as they are, will cumulatively begin to help restore what developments and intertidal operations have altered over the last 100 years of activity. They are important and should be supported by all.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ACS) Extends Comment Period on Taylor Shellfish Sustainability

November 30th: Comments may be emailed to Juan Aguirre at JAguirre@scsglobalservices.com

Should this be certified as "sustainable"?
PVC tubes used to grow geoduck
in Puget Sound for Chinese consumption.

Comments accepted through November 30
The Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) has extended until November 30 its public comment period on the Draft Audit reports for Taylor Shellfish. ASC has audited three separate areas in which Taylor Shellfish has shellfish operations, names changing slightly as the process as moved forward. Included are Key Peninsula (includes Burley Lagoon), Samish Bay, and Hood Canal.
[Note: In addition to physical operations, personnel policies and corporate culture are also considered. The Draft Audit Reports found discrimination and harassment to be "major non-conformities" at Taylor . Problems called out included sexism, nepotism, and hours worked (see "Non-conformity" sections of all audits). Related, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit against Taylor Shellfish on September 28 for a related personnel problem (see EEOC lawsuit papers filed here). Whether ASC will accept changes proposed by Taylor while the government suit remains unresolved is unknown.]

Key Peninsula Operations, South Puget Sound
(Red arrows = current geoduck operations)
click on image to enlarge
[CLICK HERE for audit report]

Hood Canal Operations
click on image to enlarge
[CLICK HERE for audit report]

Samish Bay Operations
Skagit County
(click on image to enlarge)
[CLICK HERE for audit report]

Friday, November 18, 2016

Kitsap Sun writes on Detienne Denial; Proposals Continue; Tideland Taxes are Nothing; Taylor Shelfish Discovers Lobbying

Things to Consider Over the Weekend 

The Kitsap Sun has published an article penned by Tristan Baurick on the recent Court of Appeals decision which affirmed the Shorelines Hearings Board denial of a permit for a geoduck operation adjacent to Burley Lagoon (circled in red below).

Not here.  At least not now anyway.

One loss won't stop the machine.
While the Court of Appeals brought pause to one operation, the industry continues to press forward, flush with cash from its current operations, prepared to spend what it takes to expand. Another permit application for a 25 acre geoduck operation in Burley Lagoon (body of water in the upper right of the picture above) was submitted by Taylor shellfish to Pierce County who issued a "determination of significance", triggering a required Environmental Impact Statement. Taylor chose to go ahead and create an EIS, initially suggesting 3 alternatives: the 25 acre operation; a 17 acre operation; or continuation of what some contend is an unpermitted expansion of aquaculture operations within Burley Lagoon. The cessation of the current operations and restoration of the area was not an alternative Taylor Shellfish offered.

An intensification doesn't mean
you have to pay more in property taxes.
Nor that you need a permit.
Taxes are up: to $257 (+$12) for the parcels above.

It's only an "intensification" so it's okay - no permit required and your taxes won't go up.
Comments on the EIS scoping noted complaints to Pierce County about noise, beaches being cleared of native habitat and structure, and navigational hazards which Pierce County simply said were an "intensification" of operations, and as such, required no permits. Nor an increase in assessed value. Taylor, only leasing, need not worry about any increase in value as they don't pay the property tax. The owners who reside in Kirkland apparently need not worry much either; the 177 acres above are required to pay $257, $12 more than when Taylor's "intensification" began. Some refer to the agency responses (or lack of them) as "representation without taxation."

Is $230,000 a lot of money?
Glover Park Group ("Own the Conversation") 
is more than happy to take it.

Meanwhile, in Washington DC, lobbyists have discovered Taylor Shellfish has money.
Recent reports have revealed there is more to do with profits from geoduck operations than hire contract scientists and attorneys, who are currently on full display in Thurston County where a hearing is being held November 28 [click here for agenda] on another operation being proposed by Taylor Shellfish, in Zangle Cove. The lobbying firm Glover Park Group has received $230,000 from the shellfish industry in order to help "Own the Conversation" as the press regulators to lessen oversight of their operations.

It's supposed to look that way.

Who did you buy those glasses from and who was whispering in your ear?
Perhaps taking a lesson from Glover Park Group, when a shoreline owner complained to the Department of Ecology about the ongoing mess a geoduck operation was creating, DOE replied, in essence, that it's supposed to look that way. Presumably they asked the industry about it and were told these tubes had been pulled as part of an ongoing operation and were retrieved quickly. Apparently lost on the recipient was the fact that these tubes are buried in sediment (i.e., they were not retrieved quickly) and have little to no marine growth on them, indicating they more likely were recently inserted tubes dislodged after a storm event. It appears paying $230,000 to learn how to "control the conversation" has its returns.

Get involved.
You can control the conversation. Tell Governor Inlsee it is he should step up and stop this invasive activity taking over Puget Sound's intertidal area which is not for the benefit of the state, but for a few corporations and the Chinese.

Governor Inslee: https://fortress.wa.gov/es/governor/
Legislative and Congressional contacts:

Monday, November 14, 2016

Court of Appeals Upholds Denial of Permit for Chelsea/Detienne Geoduck Farm

"Permitted shoreline uses must be 
designed and conducted in a manner 
that minimizes 
damage to the ecology, 
damage to the environment, 
and interference with the public's use of Washington's water"
Court of Appeals Decision Affirming Shorelines Hearings Board
Decision to Deny a Permit for a Geoduck Operation

Date: November 14, 2016

Contact: Coalition To Protect Puget Sound Habitat
Laura Hendricks, Director
(253) 509-4987
Thane Tienson, Attorney for Superior Court and Court of Appeals
(503) 810-8303

The Washington State Court of Appeals, Division 1 attached decision affirmed both the Superior Court and Shorelines Hearings Board (SHB) decisions to deny the 5 acre geoduck aquaculture permit in Henderson Bay/Pierce County.  The Court of Appeals stated: 

1.  "We conclude the SHB did not err in concluding the Coalition met its burden of proving the permit buffers did not adequately protect eelgrass from adverse impacts in violation of the SMA (Shoreline Management Act) and Pierce County SMP (Shoreline Master Program).".. The Coalition relied on the FSEIS buffer to argue the buffers approved by the Hearing Examiner were inadequate. The FSEIS identifies the need for a "2-foot vertical buffer or a minimum of 180-foot horizontal buffer" between eelgrass and subtidal geoduck harvest areas to protect eelgrass."

"The SHB found that while Meaders (industry expert) "is knowledgeable of the geoduck industry and science underlying aspects of industry practices," she was not "a credible expert in all aspects of study related to the nearshore environment to which she claimed expertise."

2. "Evidence presented at the hearing showed there are potential adverse impacts to critical habitat."

3.  "Because the consideration of a cumulative impact analysis prior to approval of the permit is consistent with the purpose of the SMA and clearly furthers the goal of the SMA to prevent "uncoordinated and piecemeal development,"the SHB did not err in concluding consideration should be given to preparing a cumulative impacts analysis."

4.  "De Tienne contends the SHB decision is not timely..... Because de Tienne stipulated to consolidation of the petition he filed on June 28, 2013 and there is no dispute the SHB extended the time period for good cause for an additional 30 days, the SHB complied with the time limits of the statute."

Our Coalition members, who have been fighting to protect our Washington aquatic life, are relieved that the Court of Appeals recognized the record of harm of industrial aquaculture and the need to protect eelgrass, herring and critical habitat said Hendricks. We are thankful to Dan Penttila, Wayne Daley and Dr. Gary Ritchie, the scientists who testified and have spoken out about the adverse effects of shellfish aquaculture. Tahoma Audubon and Center for Food Safety have pointed out the harm as well. We are also grateful to Brad and Sandy Newell who were responsible for over $20,000 of legal bills for this appeal. The Court of Appeals did award legal fees to the Coalition.

For more information on the Coalition To Protect Puget Sound Habitat, please see our website:

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Legal and Enviromental Implications of the Washington Shellfish Initiative: Is it Sustainable?

A piece written by Lindsey Ward and published in May of 2014, in the Seattle Journal of Environmental Law, looks at what was then, the first unilateral launch by the executive branch of Washington of the Shellfish Initiative. Almost two years later, in January of 2016, Governor Inslee launched his version, Phase 2 of the Washington Shellfish Initiative. Lost on the now re-elected Governor is:
"...its directives fall far from the Initiative’s claim of enhancing and protecting this valuable resource in a sustainable manner."
The law article notes further:
"Primarily, the environmental consequences of implementing the Initiative pose massive and irreparable consequences for the environment. Specifically, by streamlining the permitting process for commercial shellfish aquaculture, encouraging noncompliant updates of local shoreline regulations, allowing further introduction and cultivation of nonnative species, increasing shellfish density, and failing to adequately address pollution, the Initiative may ultimately cause a loss of many of its native plant and animal species as well as the unique functions they serve."
Developed in the article is the background of the industry, how the Shellfish Initiative came to be, risks inherent to promoting the expansion of an industrial activity within the critical marine ecosystem which the intertidal area makes up, and the interplay between the Shoreline Management Act and Shoreline Master Programs various government entities are required to create through its guidelines.

While written over two years ago, the risks it details are still there and, perhaps most important, on the verge of becoming a reality. "Streamlined permitting" at the local level and minimizing, if not eliminating, national oversight with the new administration are on the verge of opening the door to a massive expansion of industrial shellfish operations throughout Puget Sound, whether in the intertidal areas or massive floating raft structures to grow mussels beneath.

Some will argue with the nuances of legal interpretations presented. Some will argue the article is over two years old and things have changed. What cannot be argued is there is a significant cumulative impact overtaking Puget Sound's intertidal ecosystem which, if not held in check, will forever transform this rare treasure available to all citizens. Questionable "certifications of sustainability" do not make it so.

Friday, November 4, 2016

25+ Acre Geoduck Farm: Comments on EIS scoping due November 8; Restoration of Burley Lagoon should begin.

EIS Scoping Comments Due Nov. 8
(click announcement below to enlarge)
This estuary is far
more than a receptacle 
for PVC pipe, plastic mesh and nets.

Comments Due November 8
Friends of Burley Lagoon have sent a reminder notice that comments on the required Environmental Impact Statement addressing the significant and adverse environmental impacts from a proposed 25 acre geoduck operation - and alternatives - in Burley Lagoon are due by November 8. The operation is proposed by Taylor Shellfish believing it is little more than a "conversion" and "intensification" of growing shellfish in Burley Lagoon.
Joan Thomas

“When the SMA was written in 1971, aquaculture meant oysters and clams and one salmon raising operation. This activity was recognized and protected as water-dependent. I do not read the original intent or the original guidelines to promote the industry as we know it today." Joan Thomas, 1991 (one of the original drafters of the Shoreline Management Act)

A small part of a far greater problem.
This proposed geoduck farm is a small part of a far greater transformation of an ecosystem into little more than an industrial operation which the shellfish industry continues to believe is a "preferred use" of Washington's critical marine habitat. In 1991, one of the original drafters of the Shoreline Management Act clearly stated that aquaculture then was not what it was in 1971, and should no longer be supported by the Shoreline Management Act. Fifteen years later the industrial impacts are far worse and far more pervasive. And the industry has far more money to promote their actions as being "in the state wide interest". They are not in the state-wide interest.

"Perhaps you'd like a smaller cup of bitters?" "It's still bitter." "But it's smaller."
Alternatives proposed by Taylor Shellfish include a 25 acre operation, a 17 acre operation, or continued use of netting over an ever expanding area in this ecologically sensitive body of water. No longer able to access a food source, migratory and resident water fowl have already diminished in numbers. Native mussels and barnacle encrusted rocks creating an ecosystem for native species have been cleared off and hauled away, with "predator nets" taking their place in order to grow non-native shellfish. The quiet and peace of night is now fractured by flood lights from large vessels dropping off and picking up large metal cages, driving wildlife away. 

Get involved.  The habitat alteration which occurs from geoduck operations should stop this from happening at all, at any size. In fact, the habitat destruction/alteration which occurs from current operations in this enclosed estuary should require an Environmental Impact Statement to be created. Nets now covering beaches which were cleared of any native structure should be restored. Any activity at night should cease. It's not grandpa's oyster farm anymore.

Governor Inslee: https://fortress.wa.gov/es/governor/
Legislative and Congressional contacts:

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Mason County: Being involved makes a difference - SMP update changes are likely.

Next meeting: December 6, 9:30AM
Board Of County Commissioners chambers
411 N 5th St., Shelton
Send comments to: Rebecca Hersha at RebeccaH@co.mason.wa.us
See SMP Update information here: http://www.co.mason.wa.us/community_dev/shoreline_master_program/index.php

Lake Cushman Residents Paid Attention
Other Shoreline Owners? Maybe dormant.

At Mason County's first SMP update hearing before the Mason County Commissioners, shoreline owners along Lake Cushman showed up and made clear their displeasure of how seemingly similar shorelines were categorized so differently. As a result of their presence, verbal comments, and written comments, Mason County's planning department was told by the Commissioners to get staff to reconsider the proposal. An email sent by the head of planning noted:
The Board of County Commissioners has asked Staff to provide information regarding the Shoreline Environmental Designations at Lake Cushman, and to propose options for re-designating some of those areas. They have asked that this be ready for presentation and Commissioner deliberation at the December 6, 2016 public hearing.
Surprise! These tidelands were only "dormant".
No permit needed.

It shows why being involved in the political process matters. Rather than reading about it in the newspaper after the fact or being informed their neighbor's property would now allow an industrial activity to occur without a permit, they showed up and became involved to help shape the regulations.

Like Lake Cushman's shoreline, Mason County's tidelands are on the cusp of being reshaped and developed, with large areas being defined as having "existing aquaculture" even if none had occurred for over 100 years, thereby avoiding any permit requirements. Overnight, tidelands in a residential area may become little more than an industrial area with heavy machinery operating at any hour of the night and any structure - if related to growing shellfish - allowed.

If there is any doubt of what the impact may be like, one only need look to the east at Burley Lagoon to see what has occurred (click here for article on Burley Lagoon proposal). Metal crates creating navigational hazards are randomly placed throughout the area. Barges operate at all ours of the night drop off and retrieving the crates, delivering others from outside the area, all banging on the aluminum hulls. Floodlights shine into residential areas, and all form of wildlife is chased off. It being simply termed "intensification" and not expansion. In the case of Mason County, it would simply be called a "dormant" shellfish farm.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Shellfish Economics: China is not an endless market for shellfish.

Seafood Source writes on China and a market saturated with shellfish which has driven the price of what were once considered a luxury oyster down. So significant is the decline that "...many suppliers into China have not been making profits..". Asked why the sudden increase in supply occurred, the writer notes a grower as saying: "The Irish authorities have really progressed their licensing backlog quickly and efficiently."

What is the significance? Exactly the same thing is happening in the United States. Whether on the East Coast, the West Coast, or the Gulf Coast, political pressures from the shellfish industry is resulting in a dream long sought; "streamlined" permitting which will result in an expansion of operations. But as is often the case, be careful what you wish for as it may come true. In this case, along with the sudden expansion of operations will come, as it always does, a drop in price and a lack of profitability.
Who will pay to clean up
when the market collapses?

Economic models justify the expense of plastic structures currently appearing throughout the intertidal areas and waters of the US, in fact throughout the world. When that model changes and profits are no longer there, who will be left to clean up what is left behind as growers walk away? One simply needs to look at Drakes Estero to see one answer: the taxpayers.

While the reasons are different, the decision of Drakes Bay Oyster Company to simply walk away from a failed business model and leave taxpayers to pay for the clean up of over 500 tons of aquaculture gear and 5 miles of oyster racks in order to allow the restoration of eelgrass to occur points to what to expect. [Note: To be fair, the government could have stood its ground and made DBOC pay a far larger portion than nothing.]

As seen in the article written in Seafood Source, China is not an endless market where anything produced will sell. Geoduck are not exclusive to Puget Sound, growing in Alaska and British Columbia, even Mexico. When supply exceeds demand, who will be left to clean up the PVC and mesh tubes which are proliferating throughout Puget Sound?

Monday, October 24, 2016

Oct. 25: Double Header - Pierce County (25 acre geoduck operation) and Mason County (Shoreline Master Program update)

Tuesay, October 25th, presents two significant shoreline regulation events for the public. Both occur at the same time and in different counties, one in Pierce County, the other in Mason County. Both will play large roles in determining what Puget Sound's tideland habitat supports in future generations: commercial operations or native species.

Burley Lagoon
When should "intensification" stop
and be put back in its box?

Location 1 (Pierce County/Taylor Shellfish 25 acre geoduck operation)
Peninnsula High School
14105 Purdy Drive NW
Gig Harbor, WA

In the first, Pierce County and Taylor Shellfish will present what they have been meeting about since 2014: The County's requirement* for Taylor Shellfish to develop an Environmental Impact Statement to address the significant and adverse impacts from a proposed 25 acre geoduck operation in Burley Lagoon. The public meeting will consist of an open house between 6 and 6:45, followed by a public meeting during which Taylor Shellfish and Pierce County will explain what they developed (over almost two years of meeting about the project) followed by the public being allowed to comment. [Note: Pierce County told citizens who wished to have a table for presenting information from their perspective they would not allow it.]
*The County's SEPA process found the environmental impacts significant, and concluded it should have a "Determination of Significance" requiring an EIS. Taylor says they offered to create the EIS. When asked by the press, the County said it was a mutual decision. Either way, the County has said they will be the lead agency responsible for its creation. How much Taylor directs the lead agency is unknown.
Overall, there are three alternatives which will be considered: a 25.5 acre operation; a 17 acre operation; or, continuation of manila, oyster and "scatter planted" geoduck. All 3 will consider the impacts on Burley Lagoon, currently experiencing what has been termed an "intensification" of aquaculture, beginning when Taylor Shellfish leased the tidelands from private owners. While there have been numerous disputes over whether aquaculture ever took place in the areas Taylor has expanded into, the County has allowed all to occur, except the proposed geoduck operation, with no permitting.
Mason County
How important is aquaculture?

Location 2 (Mason County's Shoreline Master Program Update)
Mason County's Building I 
Commission Chambers
411 North Fifth Street 
Shelton WA

In the second, Mason County's Shoreline Master Program Update will be presented to the County Commissioners with a recommendation they accept the update (click here for SMP information). The meeting begins at 6 with the Public Hearing portion beginning at 6:30. As with the Burley Lagoon project above, the shellfish industry has been intimately involved. In this case, development of the SMP update has had representatives from Taylor Shellfish and Arcadia Point Seafood on the Planning Advisory Commission since April of 2013.

As noted in earlier comments, Mason County's SMP update includes the following: Existing aquaculture activities include areas that are actively cultivated and/or dormant. Dormant areas include property that was acquired under the Bush or Callow acts of 1895... While Mason County has supported shellfish aquaculture in the past, this definition will open the door to aquaculture on the vast majority of tidelands sold in Mason County with apparently no county oversight or consideration to the fact that many tidelands sold for aquaculture were consequently abandoned and used instead to enhance the value of residential developments, becoming parts of upland parcels. Bulkheads, docks, accessory dwelling units, boat launches, or stairs are not afforded the same luxury.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

October 25 - Mason County: Shoreline Master Program Update to be Heard By County Commissioners

October 25, 6:30PM
411 N 5th St., Shelton
First Commissioner hearing of the Shoreline Master Program update
(Click here to view Mason County's SMP webpage, now updated and working)

A dormant volcano is still a volcano, right?

What being involved in regulatory oversight can get you - an open door to little to no oversight of aquaculture in Mason County. PVC pipe, nets, cages, bags, operations at midnight, shoreline damage from wakes of overloaded vessels, all may be given a free pass in Mason County.

Contained within the County's long delayed Shoreline Master Program update is one line in a paragraph, inserted at the last moment, with the urging of Taylor Shellfish's Bill Dewey and approved by the Planning Advisory Commission members present. They included Bill Dewey, Vicki Wilson with Aracadia Point Seafood, Kevin Shutty (currently running for County Commissioner), and Tim Duffy (now resigned from the Planning Commission).

That line reads:

Dormant areas [of aquaculture] include property that was acquired under the Bush or Callow acts of 1895;

The line is contained within the following paragraph defining what "existing aquaculture" includes, and reads:
Existing aquaculture activities include areas that are actively cultivated and/or dormant. Dormant areas include property that was acquired under the Bush or Callow acts of 1895; areas undergoing crop rotation; and areas dormant due to market conditions, seed or juvenile availability, past and current pest infestations or control issues, water quality issues, and other cultivation factors beyond the control of the operator. Existing or permitted aquaculture operations are not subject to Section 17.50.055(H), [now 17.50.120] Existing uses and Structures, and shall not be considered nonconforming or abandoned. Ongoing maintenance, harvest, replanting, restocking or changing the culture technique or species cultivated for any existing or permitted aquaculture activity shall not require shoreline review or a new permit, unless or until:...
Because the well crafted line defines "existing" as simply holding a deed to tidelands sold 100+ years ago, on which nothing has occurred, which in many cases were tidelands abandoned and made part residential developments, any form of aquaculture may be developed without requiring a permit. Is there any better example of why being involved in the political process is important?

Get involved. Tell Mason County Commissioners, current and those potentially being elected, these structures in the tidelands need permits just like any other developments along the shorelines do. Holding a deed is not the equivalent of proof that an existing activity occurred.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

October 17 - Hearing of an appeal of an environmental decision on a geoduck operation proposed by Taylor Shellfish

Update 10/14: Comments on the SEPA approval should be emailed to protectzanglecove@gmail.com for submission at Monday's hearing. Get involved.

Thurston County: Zangle Cove

October 17 a hearing on an appeal of an environmental decision approving a geoduck operation in Puget Sound's environmentally sensitive Zangle Cove will be held. The hearing begins at 10AM with legal presentations taking place between 10 and 2, and public comments scheduled for 3 [Note: Meetings sometimes run longer, sometimes shorter.] The examiner will hear from attorneys representing those who feel the decision did not fully consider all of the environmental impacts this operation will have and attorneys who feel there is no problem with the continued expansion of PVC tubes in Puget Sound.

Location: Heritage Hall, Expo Center - 3054 Carpenter Rd SE, Lacey
(Agenda and map of hearing's location may be found here: 
Full information on the permit and documents submitted may be found here:
Comments may be mailed to: peterscs@co.thurston.wa.us 
or to Thurston County Commissioners: http://www.co.thurston.wa.us/bocc/

For additional information and how you can help, see:

Monday, October 10, 2016

Burley Lagoon: Pierce County Issues Decision on Taylor Shellfish 25 acre Geoduck Farm

Burley Lagoon's marine habitat 
should not be converted to
an industrial operation.

Pierce County has issued a Public Notice on its decision regarding a proposal by Taylor Shellfish to populate 25.5 acres in Burley Lagoon with over 1,000,000 PVC or mesh tubes, possibly covered with predator nets, needed in order to grow geoduck for the Chinese market. A "determination of significance" was issued due to the probable adverse impacts from an operation of such magnitude in an enclosed body of water. As a result an Environmental Impact Statement will be required. Pierce County is asking for comments on the scope of coverage by November 8 (click here for Public Notice and instructions on how to submit comments).

A 25 acre transformation of critical
marine habitat - for China.
Good for China. Bad for Puget Sound.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Here Come the Chinese: Lust for Big Clams Brings Largest Shellfish Facility on the West Coast

Hummingbird Cove Shellfish Hatchery
Small bird, big hatchery, big numbers, big impact.

365,000 square feet:  A lot of space costs a lot to produce big clams in big numbers.
The Powell River Peak writes about a Chinese aquaculture firm, Pacific Aquaculture, which has followed the path set by Chinese energy firms who have invested in the west and elsewhere to ensure a steady supply of carbon based fuels far into the future. Pacific Aquaculture has currently invested $10 million in a shellfish hatchery which opened on the 19th. They plan to invest an additional $40 million over the next five years to create a shellfish facility which, at 365,000 square feet, will dwarf anything on the west coast, or most likely in the world. The project, in conjunction with Hummingbird Cove Lifestyles, was first described in Hatchery International in October of last year but was then far smaller.

US Shellfish Companies: Now just
big clams in a little tank?

We used to be the big clams here
In comparison to Pacific Aquacutlure's 365,000 square foot facility, Taylor Shellfish - purported to be the largest shellfish producer in the United States - has a hatchery on Dabob Bay estimated to be 30,000 square feet in size. Production facilities in Shelton are estimated at 27,000 square feet, with those at Samish Bay being estimated at 9,000 square feet. As noted, Pacific Aquacutlure's will be 365,000 square feet.

Aloha from Goose Point Oyster in Hawaii.
We'll always have the condo.
20,000 square feet is big?

Is that Aloha a hello or goodbye to profits in the shellfish industry?
Unlike the Taylor hatchery in Dabob Bay being able to adapt to what is currently felt to be problems caused by ocean acidification, the Nisbet family's Goose Point Oyster simply scaled back their "Whiskey Creek" hatchery facility in Willapa Bay and built a new 20,000 square foot facility in Hawaii. As the article in the Seattle Times notes,  only a handful of hatcheries supply West Coast farmers, including Whiskey Creek and Taylor Shellfish. With a facility now in operation, which at 365,000 square feet will dwarf anything on the west coast, flooding the market with shellfish seed, including geoduck, how long can the profits in the shellfish industry be expected to last?

They said I'd make money. Why should I care?

I never promised you a shellfish garden.
Because shellfish companies no longer have tidelands to use, they lease tidelands from private individuals and promise "great" returns in exchange for encumbering their property, in some cases for decades. Any concerns about their role in the creation of these point sources of plastic pollution, loose nets, and fractured tideland ecosystems, along with fractured relationships with neighbors, many nurtured over generations, are diminished by the salve made from promises of monetary cream being rubbed onto these tideland owners' palms. The Chinese, however, through Pacific Aquaculture, will no longer be beholden to shellfish companies in the northwest supplying artificially constrained supplies, and inflated prices, of geoduck. Revenues will drop and the gravy train will stop. As investments in energy failed when supply overtook demand, so too will investments - and promises of riches - in the shellfish industry fail when oversupply drives prices down and the Chinese are able to supply themselves with geoduck. Leaving behind plastic tubes and structures, as Drakes Bay Oyster Company did when they walked away from Drakes Estero, leaving the taxpayers to clean up the remains.

Chinese do not like 
paying artificially inflated prices
for geoduck so will grow their own.

Sorry, I don't think that was part of the permit.
Who will pick up what's left behind when companies are no longer profitable? This bubble is no different than any bubble which has preceeded it. It will pop. Pacific Aquaculture is a big pin with a strong hand pressing on the bubble. And when it pops, Puget Sound will be left with PVC, nets, and plastic to cleanup.

Get involved. 
Demand that bonds be required for all shellfish farms currently permitted to guarantee Puget Sound is not left in the state Drakes Estero was when Drakes Bay Oyster Company decided it was best to just walk away, leaving taxpayers to pick up the mess.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

September 13, 1PM: Army Corps' Update on Regulatory Oversight

Update September 13: In January, Bill Dewey with Taylor Shellfish and Vicki Wilson inserted an absurd definition of what an "existing" aquaculture activity is into the proposed SMP update for Mason County. They defined an existing activity as being any tidelands sold in Washington under the 1895 Bush and Callow Act. Even if nothing was planted over 120 years ago. Politics pays and profits flow.

Paving a Fallow Brick Road 
With PVC and Plastic

Contact, by Monday afternoon, for Web and/or audio participation on September 13
Patricia Graesser, Public Affairs Chief
phone: (206) 764-3760

Where are we and how did we get down this road?
September 13 the Army Corps of Engineers will hold a meeting to discuss their current situation as it relates to regulating the shellfish industry in Washington. A similar meeting was held on April 20 (click here for a pdf overview of that meeting).

The preliminary agenda is as follows:
1:00 p.m. Welcome By Col. John Buck, District Commander, Seattle District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
1:05 p.m. Brief overview of the Corps aquaculture regulatory program
1:15 p.m. Update on ongoing activities:
Status of the programmatic Endangered Species Act consultation for shellfish activities in Washington
Permit tools for 2017
Upcoming milestones and opportunities for involvement

• 1:45 p.m. Questions & Answers
• 2:45 p.m. Closing Remarks

Politics pays - and when you have lots of money it helps move the process in your direction
Related to the ongoing Army Corps' oversight of this industry which wishes to greatly expand its footprint in Puget Sound and elsewhere are Biological Opinions released by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). In 2015 the Corps asked each to provide their opinions on information provided to them by the Corps, in turn largely provided by the shellfish industry, on whether acres of aquaculture proposed and anticipated would have an impact on Puget Sound's habitat and species of concern.

Zangle Cove: Fallow or never planted?
Not "historically used for aquaculture" as claimed
in a permit application for a new geoduck farm.

Fallow me down the golden brick road
A summary document explaining the past history, which in part exemplifies the challenges with gathering information from the shellfish industry, may be found by clicking here. One of the primary issues relates back to 2007 permits which included ‘areas that are periodically allowed to lie fallow as part of normal operations’ in the public notice. This gaping door left open, by not defining what "fallow" means, was taken full advantage of by the industry, claiming huge numbers of acres not planted currently were simply lying fallow, implying they had been used at some undefined time in the past. Current proposals for the Nationwide permits call for defining "fallow" as tidelands not having been planted for as long as 100 years. As seen below, this has led the Corps to believe over 14,000 acres not planted were not done so simply because they were "fallow".

Put on the BiOp focals to review the opinions
Currently, "fallow" areas are included in the information presented to FWS and NMFS, asking them to rely on that information and to issue opinions on what the Corps should do. Those Biological Opinions are located here:
Click here for NMFS Biological Opinion
Click here for FWS Bilogical Opinion

You're going to need these to get through those opinions.

Read along with me and get involved
Currently the Corps is in the process of reviewing the opinions submitted by FWS and NMFS. As it is unknown at this time whether any changes or refusals to accept what each say it is best not to comment. But what is clear is the Corps and services have been put under immense political pressure to help promote this industry. Good intentions can get lost when politics get involved. Hoping for the best when industry is driving a process will not result in the best interests of the public. Get involved. The shellfish industry is and what they want is not good for Puget Sound and species dependent on the integrity of its habitat.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Final Reminder: Help Protect Willapa Bay's Habitat for the Threatened Green Sturgeon

It is not time to relax habitat preservation for a species in the process of rebuilding its population. Make a difference and get involved.
Reminder: Comments on Green Sturgeon Habitat Due Sept. 6

Retain all of Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor
as critical habitat for the threatened Green Sturgeon

Comment here by September 6: 

Read Pubic Notice here: 

Become engaged in the public process. Tell NMFS and NOAA you support Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor being retained, with no exclusions, as critical habitat for the Green Sturgeon. Shellfish growers do have alternative methods of growing oysters and do not need to spray pesticides onto shellfish beds to kill a native primary food source (burrowing shrimp) for this endangered species.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Reminder: Comments on Green Sturgeon Habitat Due Sept. 6

Retain all of Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor
as critical habitat for the threatened Green Sturgeon

Comment here by September 6: 

Read Pubic Notice here: 

Become engaged in the public process. Tell NMFS and NOAA you support Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor being retained, with no exclusions, as critical habitat for the Green Sturgeon. Shellfish growers do have alternative methods of growing oysters and do not need to spray pesticides onto shellfish beds to kill a native primary food source (burrowing shrimp) for this endangered species.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Willapa Bay - Critical Habitat for Endangered Green Sturgeon: Study supports longline oyster growing method and retaining all of Willapa Bay as critical habitat

Willapa Bay: Critical Habitat for Green Sturgeon
Burrowing Shrimp: Critical food source

Kim Patten, WSU with longlines

Get involved. The Department of Commerce through NOAA/NMFS are performing a "regulatory review" of listings, one of which includes listing Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor as critical habitat for the endangered southern Green Sturgeon. Comments must be submitted by September 6 and must be done in writing or through the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. 
Comment here by September 6: 

Read Pubic Notice here: 

Tell NMFS and NOAA you support Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor being retained, with no exclusions, as critical habitat for the Green Sturgeon. Shellfish growers do have alternative methods of growing oysters and do not need to spray pesticides onto shellfish beds to kill a primary food source for this endangered species.

Willapa Bay: Critical Habitat for Green Sturgeon, a
threatened/endangered species under the 
United States Endangered Species Act.

Change is hard - stop living in your father's shadow and make a difference.
A study by Kim Patten with Washington State University has shown strong support for the use of the longline ("off bottom") method to grow oysters in beds which have burrowing shrimp in Willapa Bay. Willapa Bay was listed in 2009 as critical habitat for the endangered southern distinct population (SDP) of the Green Sturgeon, once far more abundant. Unlike salmon who pass through this important estuary on their way to the open ocean, the Green Sturgeon relies "...heavily on estuarine habitats over their lifespans." (from 2009 listing) Included is reliance on burrowing shrimp as a food source.

Damien Schiff
Tried to get the southern resident Orca
de-listed as an endangered species.
PLF - a danger to the 
endangered species act

2009 Habitat Listing Challenged by Pacific Legal Foundation
Earlier this year the Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) asked the Supreme Court to review whether regulators had the discretion to determine whether to not exclude areas from being considered critical habitat. The court ruled those decisions are not subject to judicial review. It is unlikely the Supreme Court will consider Mr. Damien's case during the Long Conference, scheduled for September 26. (see here for PLF's response brief)

Not to Exclude is still discretionary.
While not involved in the lawsuit, in comments to NMFS on the then proposed 2009 decision, shellfish growers in Willapa Bay did ask for shellfish beds to be excluded from being considered critical habitat during the comment period. In response to that request, the National Marine Fisheries Services responded:
"Telemetry data show that tagged green sturgeon disperse widely throughout these estuaries, most likely for foraging. In addition, anecdotal accounts have noted observations of sturgeon in intertidal aquaculture beds in the past, likely when populations of sturgeon were more abundant in these estuaries."
 Sturgeons like long lines and shrimp beds.

Can oyster growers, an endangered species, and that species' food source co-exist?
According to Mr. Patten's recently published study, yes. His study finds an abundance of "foraging pits" in areas using longlines to grow oysters with burrowing shrimp >10/square meter. In fact, it was only in areas with no shellfish activity the forage pits were in greater density. Further, in a study published in 2007, it noted that "... these large predators [Green Sturgeon] may have performed an important top down control function on shrimp populations in the past when they were more abundant."

Bad conclusion to a good study - there is not a "surplus of foraging habitat". There are lower numbers of Green Sturgeon. It's why they're endangered.
As highlighted in the comments quoted above, sturgeon used to be more abundant. So much so one of the studies believes Green Sturgeon may have both played an important role in controlling shrimp populations and, contrary to Mr. Patten's observations, included shellfish beds in their foraging (something which would seem to support the grower's statement that shellfish beds improve the habitat). One of the stressors which reduced their population has been the past use of the pesticide Carbaryl by shellfish growers. Loss of spawning habitat and over-fishing no doubt also played roles as well. But the important point is the population of Green Sturgeon is not what is was. That is why there appears to be a "surplus of foraging habitat" and, more importantly, why they are considered endangered.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Imidacloprid in Willapa Bay: Public Relations Effort to Spray Pesticides in Willapa Bay Begins

"Abandon ship!"
Did you have that boat inspected
before you bought it?

Easier to give up than change.
The Chinook Observer has published an article on why Goose Point Oyster (owned by the Nisbet family) is in desperate need to spray imidacloprid onto one of its Willapa Bay oyster beds. With a picture of their farm manager seeming to sink into a pool of quicksand, Dave Nisbet tells a story of why they are abandoning a parcel near the mouth of the Cedar River, done in by a 2" shrimp. Tidelands which were part of a $1.9 million transaction in 2015 which, had they been inspected, may have shown them to be incompatible with Goose Point's growing technique. And perhaps why tidelands at the mouth of a river with clear cut logging within its watershed may not have the firmest sediments.

Good shrimp, bad shrimp
Good duck, bad duck
Geoduck farming's "happy side": ecosystem services?

"Psst - I think we're giving a mixed message here."
Ironically, the Pacific Shellfish Grower's Association chose to show a diver harvesting geoduck feeding one of the dreaded shrimp to a Scoter, declaring the picture of what they consider to be two of their "pests" the winner of June's ecosystem system photo contest. The winged "pest" is kept off of shellfish beds - and away from the burrowing shrimp - by nets and hazing. Shellfish growers propose to rid the burrowing shrip - the clawed pest - by spraying the pesticide imidacloprid onto the oyster beds, hoping a permit application from the Willapa Grays Harbor Oyster Growers Association (WGHOGA) will be approved by the Department of Ecology. Editorials claim it doesn't kill the shrimp, it just "only makes them susceptible to suffocation." Kind of like propofol and benzodiazepine made Michael Jackson only go into a really really really deep sleep. (See a copy of what the shellfish industry considers to be "pests" by clicking here.)
Good eelgrass, bad eelgrass
It's a weed. No, it's a support.

Irony becomes steely
In the Chinook article, the irony continues to grow as the article points out that on the eastern side of the parcel eelgrass provides "...a support system of roots under the surface that allows oysters to sit above the mud during high tide." This would be eelgrass which WGHOGA, in some cases, is currently spraying with the herbicide imazamox. To be fair, it is not clear whether the eelgrass referred to is the native or non-native. But it is clear Goose Point's Mr. Nisbet speaks highly of the "economic services" it provides to his ability to grow oysters. Not mentioned were the other species which benefit from its ecosystem services.

"Get out of my way
and let me do what I want,
how I want, when I want."

Trust us, we're oyster growers and Willapa Bay is not what you think. We aren't either.
In a follow-up Chinook Observer editorial titled "Get out of the way and let oyster growers survive", the public relations push evolves further. In the editorial, Governor Inlsee is described as throwing oyster growers "under the bus in order to notch a symbolic win for environmental purity." Those who believe Washington shellfish can be - in fact should be - grown in unpolluted waters are "urban activists" standing in the way of oyster growers wanting to spray herbicides and pesticides into marine waters for their beneifit. How do they see themselves when they complain of urban runoff and sediments from logging operations running into Willapa Bay? Are "rural activists" pursuing clean and healthy waters so they may profit less pure than urban activists?

Dredging for ecosystem services

(screen shots from 
"Oyster Dredging" in Willapa Bay)

Dreading ecosystem services in Willapa Bay
In the final piece of irony, the public relations editorial printed in the Chinook Observer speaks highly of the habitat services provided by oyster beds: "...more crab, more fish, more birds." Unfortunately, not described is the devastation those oyster growers bring to those oyster beds and habitat at harvest time. In the images above it is clear that not only is eelgrass being ripped from the tidelands of Willapa Bay, but that whatever "habitat" those oyster beds provided is destroyed when harvesting takes place. It's the kind of ironic story which happens when people who sit in urban offices direct how a public relations campaign in a rural area should unfold - it folds up on itself.

Get involved - tell the Governor and your elected officials it is time to stop spraying chemicals into Willapa Bay and oyster growers to move into the future.

Governor Inslee: https://fortress.wa.gov/es/governor/
Legislative and Congressional contacts: