The New Walrus and the Carpenter Yesterday in Shelton

“The Walrus and the Carpenter, went walking hand in hand. They cried like anything to see such quantities of sand…”
Lewis Carroll.

The jury is out on the latest initiative that was unveiled yesterday. The State, NOAA and the Shellfish industry execs teamed up to offer an interesting way to gain expansion of shellfish beds in Puget Sound. The ‘oysters’ this time, unlike those that got ate in the Carroll poem, are the local opposition to the expansion of geoduck farming, along with some environmental supporters, who may find, in the end that they got ate by the two ‘friends’ who put out their hands to ‘take a little walk’ in Shelton. But just like the original poem, the government and industry, which is who the Walrus and Carpenter were meant to symbolize, are still around with us.

The announcement gave something for everyone, as they say. In exchange for $200,000 in federal funds to help restore two kinds of species, (which means about 5 to 10 jobs, I would assume, and likely primarily in the abalone efforts), the shellfish industry will have the ability to accelerate the permitting process, especially for expansion of farms.

In case you haven’t been paying attention, the Feds believe that our pristine waters should be converted into the next megafarm for shellfish. They’ve said so publicly. While we all support a native industry that provides food, the expansion of “big aqua” farming methods in our area has alarmed many people, especially those living along the shores that find a ‘farm’ in the backyards where none existed previously. Then there’s the issue of destruction of habitat, in converting a diverse shoreline environment to a monoculture activity.

The state is going to give faster permitting, in exchange for water quality projects in the areas of the industry (the industry has always been a strong ally of the environmental goals of cleaner water in Puget Sound). But to be clear, the only thing ‘slowing’ the process of geoduck expansion are environmentalists and shoreline homeowner opposition. So look for less ability for these groups to put anything in the way of the growers.

We will also see expanded efforts to support the restoration of Olympia Oysters and pinto abalone. Pintos are turning out to be almost impossible to restore. The Olys are somewhat better. We have a couple of Oly projects going on in Jefferson County, one down on the base of Discovery Bay.

Curt Puddicombe, a contributor to this blog via many responses to our articles over the years, is quoted in the story referred to in our link. I’ve found Curt to be a very well informed environmentalist, and he is extremely concerned with a wide front of issues that the expansion of geoduck in particular raises.

To help newer readers understand, the Geoduck is farmed here almost entirely for a high priced Chinese market for aphrodisiacs at the dinner table. Nothing wrong with that. It’s an amazing international market that requires lightning fast 24 hour a day marketing and sales efforts, ending with the ducks on planes bound for China within hours of harvest.

We have a booming industry both in the tribes and the non-tribal groups. But this is big business. Not to be confused with subsistence local food sources. And the beds just can’t be setup on any beach. You need a specific beach that supports them. The South Sound is particularly suited, and that is what concerns local people who are seeing more and more shoreline converted to a farm that can be and is, often harvested by generator equipped boats in the middle of the night, especially in the winter during night tides.

The Olympian article is here:

If you Google “Shellfish aquaculture Puget Sound” you’ll likely find 50 or more other articles from yesterday.

7 Responses

  1. This is the eve of a disaster for our local estuary, Burley Lagoon. The previous oyster farmers has linked with another group and applied to establish a 90 acre geoduck farm inside the south central area of Burley Lagoon – right in the path of seasonal salmon runs. After the initial harvest, planting new geoducks inside 90 acres of pvc pipes, covered with predator nets will surely end the lives of our many endangered species. These include seasonal salmon runs and several families of bald eagles and other migratory avian species. We eagerly await public hearings in a few months. But the “fast track” on applications is a disaster on the brink – ours!

  2. The elephant in the room is global warming. Perhaps media wizard Al can put on this website two UW presentations, one on global warming and one on sea level rise.

    Last night the Pt Angeles Coastal Watershed Institute brought two scientists, Curt Ebbesmeyer and Jim Ingraham who presented Tsunami Debris.

    Fukishima water debris will be here in a few years, but the wind brings drifts of debris 3 times faster; much has already arrived on U.S. shores. These materials need to be assessed for radiation.
    How much debris and how much water from this disaster is radioactive? Much debris is found in birds and marine animals Radiation is spread up the food chain.

    What does this mean for farmed fish and shellfish? Safe to dig up? Safe to eat? Safe to recreate in our waters?

    Watch the presentation.

    • True enough that there are huge, whole systems issues that our current crop of politicians seem unwilling to effectively address. Between Global Warming and ocean acidification, along with unsustainable harvesting of ocean species, we are slowly being stripped of our ocean resources, if you want to consider them simply a ‘resource’. But I always believe in acting local, rather than looking towards Washington D.C. for answers. The answer there is always about business and money. Here we live with the results of those decisions. So the more effective a person can be here, the more effective the outcome there. Eleanor Stopps was the expert at that. She focused here until she had a critical mass and worked our local politicians in Slade Gordon and others to make the final mile.

      As to whether our coasts will be safe with the washed up debris from Japan, it is a good opportunity to put people to work at low wages, cleaning the beaches when the time comes. And getting some people with meters to check the radiation before cleaning.

  3. Oakland Bay in Shelton is frequently closed due to high fecal coliform levels as well; even in dry times, which makes no sense because, as noted above, it often occurs during big rains…

    Further, in Oakland Bay we season our oysters and clams with Dioxin, and Simpson Timber Co. and Olympic Panel seem unable to keep the storm waters from washing the residual chemicals from their industry right into Oakland Bay. Locally, many of us would not touch an oyster grown and harvested in Oakland Bay.

    Maybe the feds should hang on to their $200,000, I heard that we are having a major deficit problem and that we cannot afford to take care of our elderly, our young, our sick, our soldiers, etc., etc… So who the hell decided we had $200,000 to prop up the local shellfish industry?

    • Well, I hear your frustration. The fact of the matter is that the $200k is a nice giveback, as the feds have slashed many other worthy programs. They took away vastly more than that in the last few years, including Obama’s misguided ending of earmarks, which are going to do away with the inexpensive but effective local programs of the Northwest Straits Initiative, which has accomplished far more than any of the fed programs that have been put in place over the last few years at similar price tags.

  4. The Samish Bay problem of shellfish bed closures due to high fecal coliform levels during big rains was mentioned in the Gov. press release. Some of the money is going to Skagit County to augment their existing Pollution Identification and Control (P.I.C.) program to try to correct the problem. Ironically, almost all the sources identified have been pastured livestock and it has taken Department of Ecology enforcment activity to get the fixes made because all the education and incentives have been ignored. The Department of Ecology gets none of this money.

    The link to the Olympian story isn’t showing …

    • Thanks for clarifying the info. It’s been the Governor’s own inaction on agricultural issues that has made this problem so bad to begin with.

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