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, September 18, 2019

Burley Lagoon clam die-off: Just move along. We have this all under control. Really?

There are lots more bad clams out there 
in Burley Lagoon, so have it.

It's foggy out there.
After residents along the shoreline of Burley Lagoon and nearby areas pointed out to Taylor Shellfish, Pierce County, the Department of Health, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Sea Grant, directly or indirectly, that there had been a large clam die off on the tidelands of the enclosed estuary, there is no more clarity on the cause than before.

Death of a clam is "not an anomalous event." What about the death of thousands?
What is clear is this was a significant event. As in Rocky Bay, Burley Lagoon too was a commercially planted tideland with high densities of nonnative Manila clams planted. In both cases "crops" of clams died, surfaced and began to rot. Pierce County noted that "die offs are not anomalous events" and they will happen again. If they will happen again, and the result is a "stench so bad it almost knocked me over" (Rocky Bay resident), shouldn't there be some sort of urgency to determine exactly what caused these massive die offs in south Puget Sound, Discovery Bay, and now Burley Lagoon? Spread over a period of months?

Toxic Bloom: We have samples, but we need more testing, so we'll just keep harvesting oysters.
When contacted, Taylor Shellfish claimed there was a "toxic algae bloom." There was a vagueness to what that toxic bloom was, with words to the effect that more testing needed to be done. The Department of Health was unaware of any such bloom and was unsure of the exact cause. Temperatures weren't abnormally high and Taylor had apparently said nothing to them. Or any of the other agencies.

Their experts are on it.
Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department responded that WDFW and the DOH had their experts looking at it, and based on conversations with them, there was no problem. Except that a large area of commercially planted nonnative clams had surfaced, died, and begun to rot. For unknown reasons. With waters of Burley Lagoon spreading that rot and oysters filtering that rot.

Crabs and birds will get through the predator nets and "clean it up". On their schedule.
WDFW said the crabs and birds would clean up the mess, even with predator nets in place. Predator nets in place to keep crabs and birds off of the tidelands. There was little concern over whether those species would be impacted by whatever toxins may have killed the clams. Rotting on the tidelands, dead from an unknown cause. In an estuary with low flushing.

DOH: Oysters filtering waters with rotting clams and unknown toxin is not a problem.
The DOH, like the others, was unsure of the cause but felt it may have been related to the large die off in Rocky Bay and an area near Vaughn. This was a die off which had occurred in June, almost 3 months ago, and was apparently now repeating itself. With thousands of clams rotting in Burley Lagoon and oysters doing what they do best - filtering that water. And being harvested for consumption.

Sea Grant: We need more grant money. 
Sea Grant and their marine scientists who have helped support the expansion of aquaculture in south Puget Sound are still unsure of what the cause of the Rocky Bay event was, and are now requesting additional funds for further studies. While waiting for an answer from these experts, another massive die off has occurred in Burley Lagoon. Another die off which has resulted in a similar "stench which almost knocked me over" (a Rocky Bay resident). Another die off whose cause is unknown and which will not be cleaned up by anyone.

NAMBI: Not against my business or industry.
Shoreline residents whose properties  are the most heavily regulated in the state through the Shoreline Management Act and now Pierce County's updated Shoreline Master Program expect to see similar attention on developments in the tidelands. And actions when those industrial level developments create industrial level impacts. Instead, what they hear is Taylor Shellfish testifying before the Pierce County Council during the SMP update hearing that not enough was being done for them. A hearing at which numerous amendments to address their prior concerns were adopted. After they appealed the original proposal to the Growth Management Hearings Board, which found in their favor. Still, they want more.

It's aquaculture. Our commercial activities are more important than you.
Now, residents who own shoreline property, property which is heavily regulated and restricted, look at the tidelands which once grew shellfish in reasonable numbers. Without a past in which die offs were not a regular event and which did not impact the public's use of waters and shoreline. Without predator nets and without PVC tubes. Without a "stench which almost knocked me over."

Get involved. If Pierce County believes the state law needs to change in order to de-prioritize aquaculture, they will do it. You should to. Because the stench will only get worse.

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