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:

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Comment on Corps of Engineers Permitting Update

RGP or NWP - Both regulatory frames around the shellfish industry which they will try to break
On April 25 the Coastal Watershed Institute released an opinion on the Corps of Engineers' April 20 meeting at which the COE discussed their regulatory oversight of aquaculture (see below). Those regulations developed occur within either the framework of the Regional General Permit (RGP) or the Nationwide Permit process. RGP is more focused on regional issues and able to change more quickly (becoming more or less restrictive as impacts are discovered) whereas the NWP is more nationally focused, with regional conditions, but also set in place for 5 year periods. The former fits into Governor Inslee's misguided Shellfish Initiative.
[Note: The Nationwide Permit update process will be starting soon, as the current 2012 NWP's will be replaced in 2017.]

Taking an RPG to the time it takes 
A great number of concerns expressed by growers focused on the industry's dislike of how much time permitting of shellfish farms takes. Similar frustrations were expressed at an April 18 meeting of state agencies, where Governor Inslee pressed his Washington Shellfish Initiative and wanting to "streamline" the permitting process so expansion of the industry could occur on their schedule (for a summary of what was proposed to benefit the shellfish industry, see here). Some spoke of the "burden" it placed on small growers. Others spoke of multiple agencies (WDFW, NFMS) which had to be consulted and the time it added to the process. One speaker, a past employee of Seattle Shellfish, expressed concerns about time and a program he was involved with which would enable disabled veterans to become shellfish farmers.
[Note: The Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association had previously announced this program, but asked for members to provide sites already "permitted for shellfish farming." Whether any permitted sites were provided by PCSGA members is not known. Whether disabled veterans would prefer access to a natural shoreline over one populated with PVC pipes and netting is also unknown.]
Slippery regulations on eel grass
Also at the COE meeting there was concern expressed by an industry representative over comments about the regulation of activities in or near eelgrass. As noted in an earlier post, the shellfish industry successfully lobbied representatives in D.C. to get the Corps to drop protections of eelgrass in "fallow" shellfish beds. Reaction by tribal members, individuals and NGO's was sharp in opposing this action (see Coalition to Protect Puget Sound Habitat letter here). Concerns expressed at the meeting by the industry may be related to the developing science on the importance of eel grass in sequestering CO2, in addition to the well established science of the critical habitat it provides. Concerns which all should have is the slippery slope which the industry has put everyone on, where the economic benefit of a few override the long term benefits of the many by dropping protection of the critical habitat created by eel grass.

"iron fisted, misdirected support of the aquaculture industry"
As seen below, the Coastal Watershed Institute is clear about how it feels on the shellfish industry's growing regulatory influence. Speaking directly to Governor Inslee's "Shellfish Initiative", CWI notes the risk to the "wild and intact nearshore ecosystems" which "streamlined permitting" for industrial aquaculture brings with it. Also noted in their email is the success which political lobbying in Washington DC brought - the removal of eel grass protections. This is an industry well financed by geoduck grown and sold to China (netting over $1 million/acre to growers, with tideland owners simply being taken advantage of through lease terms benefiting no one but the growers). It is highly motivated. And, it does not like being regulated. Get involved.

Subject: CWI position on CoE Shellfish Aquaculture Permitting following
Informational Meeting April 20 (UNCLASSIFIED)

We attended the  20 April 2016 CoE informational meeting on  future federal
permitting of shellfish aquaculture in Washington state. The agenda is
attached, and the link to meeting presentation materials is below. We'll
have more to say when the draft biological opinions are published. Until
then, a few thoughts to consider as we wait...

One of the main decision points before the CoE is to decide the type of
permit they will develop for the future. They may pursue another national
permit, or alternatively, develop a regional aquaculture permit for
Washington state. The later would dovetail with seamlessly  Governor's state
'Shellfish Initiative', which  in our firm and clear opinion has been iron
fisted, misdirected support of the aquaculture industry, and that we feel is
in direct opposition to, and  displacement of, our wild and intact nearshore

The Washington state Department of Agriculture may well  be proposed as the
regional lead for the state in this regional construct. Remember that the
Department of Agriculture recently listed eelgrass, Zostera japonica, as a
nuisance species, opening the way to eelgrass irradiation by the shellfish
industry. WDFW should be a leader in this dialog-but WDFW (inexplicably)
has no permit authority over shellfish practices.

We just celebrated Earth Day. Many citizens spent the day participating in
beach clean ups around the state. They are the most recent witness to the
fact  that the majority of marine plastic debris of not only global, but
also our local shorelines, is from aquaculture. Bottom line:  exclusion
nets, tubes, spraying, and extensive monotypic cultures of non-native
species, and  mechanical disruption of shorelines for large scale and
industrial aquaculture are contra indicated with nearshore systems so
important for our northwest systems.

We were relieved to see military veterans were a profile at the meeting.
Our staff can speak from very personal experience-our wild, natural
nearshore ecosystems provide invaluable refuge/respite for healing veterans
and their families.  They must be protected.

Another point made at the meeting was that Washington state is one of the
largest shellfish industry producers in the nation-as reflected by the
number of permits along our shoreline.

The truth is that the  shellfish industry is extremely lucrative  in
Washington state (geoduck farms are reported to net over $1,000,000 an
acre), and politically extremely powerful. One recent and clear
illustration:  the startling letters from state and federal *elected*
politicians to the CoE Seattle branch chief that were specifically directed
to CoE protection of eelgrass. These letters , overnight, resulted in the
removal of  permit provisions that would have protected over 10,000 acres of
existing eelgrass in Puget Sound.

Based on what we observed at the 20 April  meeting- and in recent management
and political actions by state and federal agencies (and elected
officials)-,it's clear that our nearshore resources management actions are
being decided  as never before by industrial aquaculture, and the economic
heart that is at their core. The federal resource agencies and the CoE have
before them the opportunity and responsibility to preserve the intact
shorelines and ecosystems of our region. But to do so will require these
agencies to challenge the political forces that are becoming ever more
dominant in our ecosystem resource management. We strongly encourage them to
buck up,  chose  the right side of the ecosystem (as challenging as doing so
may be), and  be leaders for the resources (they are specifically charged
with protecting) and that we know they have the capacity to be.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Friday, May 13: Salmon Farming - Net Loss and Risks to Puget Sound

“The conditions of traditional salmon farms 
can only be compared to a floating pig farm”
The more you know
the better you do.

Frankenstein of Fish (movie not yet rated)
What better date than Friday the 13th of May to show a film on the risks to Puget Sound which net pen salmon farming brings. The film will be shown Friday the 13th of May at 7pm, at the Angus Dei Luther Church (10511 Peacock Hill Ave NW Gig Harbor). It is free to the public, and anyone who is concerned over the political pressures being put on agencies by large and well financed corporations to green light these operations, and what they bring with them, should attend. If you're not too afraid of getting out on Friday the 13th, you will find it to be time well spent. And, it's free.

Grade School Lessons from Lesions
discussing risks of net pen farming
in open waters)

A better world through antibiotics, pesticides and genetically engineered salmon - or is it?
Industrial production of any species, like an elementary school, is a breeding ground for bacteria. Once one child gets sick, almost everyone gets sick. The response? In the past, a prescription of antibiotics was given and all was well. But now, bacteria resistant to most antibiotics is posing a threat. In the marine environment, concentrated populations - whether salmon or shellfish - begin to present the same opportunity for bacteria to spread. One fish gets sick in the pen, they all get sick. The response? Antibiotics thrown into the water with the feed. The result? Bacteria becoming resistant to not only antibiotics applied, but also bacteria which the natural defense systems of wild and native species are unable to fight off, resulting in issues such as the lesion seen above. Pesticides are used to fight off sea lice, which become pervasive in the closed environment net pens create and then spread to the native species in waters these farms are located in.

No, that's not the kind of shot
the shellfish industry is now talking about.
Has your oyster been immunized?

It's just a phage we're going through and no, we don't know what the next problem will be, but $500,000 will help with the old one.
Salmon "farmers" are not the only ones interested in controlling the environment. Shellfish farmers are also an industrial group which uses the marine habitat having problems they feel should be dealt with through modern medicine. In the case of oysters, Food Safety News recently wrote about a number of vibrio bacteria threatening the economic health of the industry and the health of those who consume oysters. In 2008, Vibrio tubiashii was blamed for the deaths of oyster larvae in hatcheries. The cause of death then evolved into ocean acidification being the problem. After hundreds of thousands were spent on monitoring and filtering equipment for the industry, Vt is again being described as the problem larvae are having. The USDA has awarded $500,000 to commercialize of a "cocktail" of bacteriophages to deal with Vt., this following a $99,000 award in 2013.  Vibrio parahaemolyticus and Vibrio vulnificus, both present threats to human health if contracted and are both naturally occurring bacteria. The former is pervasive in Puget Sound during warmer summer months and the latter having been found present in recent years. Vv is prevalent in the warmer Gulf waters during the summer and causes death in ~50% of those who contract it and is expected to become a growing problem as the waters of Puget Sound continue to become warmer. Both Vp and Vv forms of bacteria are contracted primarily from consuming raw oysters.

No, that's not a hot dog
you want to eat.
"Fear can drive people away from a product"
No kidding.

Oysters dipped in a bacteriophage soup
As noted in Food Safety News, $500,000 is now available to see if "bacteriophages" are able to be commercialized to control Vt, and perhaps other forms of bacteria causing the shellfish industry economic hardships. How those will be administered is still unknown, but in Seafood Safety News, Bill Dewey, with Taylor Shellfish, suggested a "live seawater oyster-holding system with the phages in it" as one possibility. Whether there would be a risk of the concentrated phages being discharged into the waters of Puget Sound, and what risk to native species there may be, was not discussed.

Better fish through
genetic manipulation.
The Frankenstein of fish.

Big fish cause big problems which Puget Sound cannot afford.
Friday the 13th of May you are invited to see a film on net pen salmon farming and all it brings with it. Whether it be sea lice having to be dealt with through the application of pesticides or bacterial infections dealt with through the application of antibiotics or possibly bacteriophages, the waters and habitat of Puget Sound with its native species are far more important than the profits of a few.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

DOE Passes on Considering Current Research on PVC/Plastic Degradation In Marine Environment

*Note: April 18 the Washington Shellfish Initiative Advisory Group
 will meet 9:30am to 12:00pm
John L. O’Brien Building
Room B15/18, 504 15th Ave SE, Olympia,
See Draft Agenda for that meeting by clicking here
Streamlined permitting report will be discussed,
including Burley Lagoon's 25 acre geoduck farm.

Degradation of thought process
Political pressures have pushed the Department of Ecology (DOE) to develop Shoreline Master Program guidelines in the form of their SMP Handbook. In part, these guidelines are in place to help the shellfish industry expand operations in Washington's Puget Sound and Willapa Bay, part of Governor Inslee's "Washington Shellfish Initiative" through "streamlined permitting." In that process, DOE discussed whether research on the degradation of plastics and PVC in the marine environment, more current than 2010, should be considered. It was a thought well worth considering. As recently as July 19, 2015, a peer reviewed study on the degradation of PVC and plastics in the marine environment noted:
"...more studies of reaction pathways and potential degradation products of plastic polymers under conditions that more closely approximate the marine environment are needed. These experiments would also help to make quantitative extrapolations about degradation rates in the marine environment possible." (see Pathways for degradation of plastic polymers floating in the marine environment, published in Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts, 2015)

As seen in this email, DOE felt differently, most likely due to political pressures to complete and implement the SMP handbook.

(email is part of a FOI request found here which has links to
a 2010 report and 2014 PVC question/answer paper)

It's not habitat. It's pollution...
...and the shellfish industry's farms are a point source,
and they want to expand, which Governor Inslee
is happy to promote.

What you don't know won't matter until it matters. And then it may be too late.
In a paper titled Environmental Risk of Polymers and their Degradation Products, dated May of 2013, the author points out studies performed in laboratories do not replicate the real world. He writes:
"...there is limited information on the degradation of PBMs [polymer based materials, including PVC] under environmentally relevant conditions, where a number of degradation mechanisms occur at once; and the potential for PBMs to form other chemical compounds during the degradation process and the effects these formed compounds may have on organisms has received little attention."
Good for a few...
...not for Puget Sound.

At what point is enough too much?
In the video clip above, one farm less than 10 acres in size is seen. This is only a precursor to what the shellfish industry wants and what Puget Sound will get if Governor Inslee's "Washington Shellfish Intiative" is allowed to move forward as the industry wants. It is an industry motivated by money, hidden behind the pretext of being "advocates for clean water." Clean water means little if the marine habitat is transformed to PVC forests and nets.

Get involved
Attend the April 18 meeting noted above and point out there is more to Puget Sound's unique habitat than feeding the elite of China.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

April 20: Army Corps of Engineers to Present Status of Aquaculture Permitting in Seattle

COE presentation, April 20, Seattle WA - open to the public.

Notification to the COE by April 14 is required if you intend to be there in person. If you wish to listen via the internet an email/phone call is also required. A question and answer period will occur at the end of the presentation.
Contact: Patricia Graesser
email: patricia.c.graesser@usace.army.mil
phone: 206-764-3760

Get involved: Become aware of COE aquaculture oversight.
The Army Corps of Engineers has released an announcement about a presentation on the current and future oversight of shellfish aquaculture, nationally and more importantly, in the northwest. For almost ten years now the COE in Seattle has helped control the desired expansion of the shellfish industry in Puget Sound. Requirements in 2007 to supply accurate information were found to not have been met with all applications having been rejected and new ones required.  

Politics pays if you pay lobbyists to complain of oversight.
Political pressures in Washington DC to slacken oversight from the COE have been intense, with recent results being the removal of eelgrass protections when an area having lied "fallow" is considered for production. Current pressures for the COE to require a cumulative impacts analysis have not been met with success. Despite ongoing expansion resulting in small, discrete farms becoming far larger point sources of PVC and plastic pollution of Puget Sound, the shellfish industry continues to see nothing wrong and presses forward through politically driven programs such as the Washington Shellfish Initiative proposal to minimize oversight through "streamlining" the permitting process.
[Note: A separate meeting April 18 will be held by Washington State on their permitting process. The Washington Shellfish Initiative Advisory Group meeting will be held April 18, 2016, 9:30am to 12:00pm John L. O’Brien Building, Room B15/18, 504 15th Ave SE, Olympia, WA 98501. See Draft Agenda for that meeting by clicking here.]
<<Army Corps of Engineers' Press Release>>
The Seattle District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is holding an informational meeting April 20 to update those involved with shellfish aquaculture about ongoing and upcoming permitting program activities in Washington State. Federal, Tribal, state and municipal officials along with growers and interested groups are invited to get an update from the District’s Regulatory Branch with an opportunity to ask questions following the presentation.
The information meeting will be held at 1 p.m. at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Seattle District Office, at the Federal Center South, 4735 E. Marginal Way South, Seattle, Washington (a map is attached).
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
•       Regional General Permit for shellfish activities or 2017 Nationwide Permit 48 for commercial shellfish activities
Upcoming milestones and opportunities for involvement
•       1:45 p.m.               Questions & Answers
•       2:45 p.m.               Closing Remarks
The building is a secure facility.  If you plan to attend, you must RSVP to enable us to provide names to security officers before the event. Please arrive 15 minutes early to allow time to pass through security.  In addition you will need to have valid photo ID and go through a metal detector to enter the building.
If you plan to attend in person, please call Patricia Graesser, Public Affairs Chief, by April 14 at (206) 764-3760 or e-mail her at: patricia.c.graesser@usace.army.mil   If you can’t attend in person and wish to join on to a web meeting and audio conference call, please contact Ms. Graesser for the sign on information.
We look forward to seeing you there.
Michelle Walker
Seattle District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Regulatory Branch Chief