State denies request to move juvenile Atlantic salmon to Bainbridge net pens -AP & various

Well, this is likely the end of the line for Atlantic net pen raised salmon in Puget Sound. Good news for wild fish and the benthic layer in those locations.

Washington state fish managers have denied a request by Cooke Aquaculture to move thousands of juvenile Atlantic salmon from its hatchery to marine net pens in Kitsap County. The Department of Fish and Wildlife said Thursday it rejected the company’s application because the move would increase the risk of fish disease transmission both within and outside the pens…. Tests taken from samples of fish that would have been transported showed they had a form of the fish virus PRV that has not been known to occur in Washington waters. WDFW fish health manager Ken Warheit called it an “exotic strain” that differs from the variety that had been present in the eastern Pacific Ocean, creating an “unknown risk that made it unacceptable.” (Associated Press)

Damning emails surface showing state concerns over aquaculture methods

Laura Hendricks has been working against geoduck farming aquaculture for over a decade. She has often been portrayed quite negatively by the shellfish industry, as they routinely attempt to label her as a ‘radical environmentalist’.  This reporter has heard her called that by representatives of the shellfish industry public relations team. Her tactics have often been at odds with other environmental organizations. Recently, she requested through a public records request emails between Washington State Dept. of Fish and Wildlife and the Pacific Coast Shellfish Industry, a lobbying organization for the shellfish industry.
The latest document that she has surfaced shows a picture of industry attempting to influence (and weaken) any attempt at state regulation over it’s use of state tidelands. In the last decade, in an effort to head off attempts to provide greater state regulations over their conversion of thousands of acres of tidelands into valuable geoduck farms, (which sells virtually all their product to China), the aquaculture industry has put together a public relations and lobbying machine that has worked to keep any regulation that may thwart more conversion of nearshore into production from reaching law. At the time of the email, 2002, the industry was putting together a self regulation effort, to forestall any attempts by environmentalists to get the State of Washington to better regulate their industry.
The Washington Shellfish Initiative, which has been implemented by Governor Inslee, primarily works to enhance and expand shellfish harvest in Puget Sound. The issues raised in this newly found email, appear to never have made it into any working framework for regulation of the industry. The question it raises, is “Why weren’t they?”
The document, by Gail Kreitman, who was the regulatory services manager for the habitat program of the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife ends with a with a damning list of negative consequences that the aquaculture industry causes, or could cause, to shorelines.
The State and Tribes  are struggling to save Orca and restore native salmon, forage fish and herring populations. At the same time, the State is allowing conversion of  hundreds and hundreds of acres of nearshore into farms for geoduck, along with the attentive shore based work . We in the environmental community have fought for less farms and more protections for the shore and shoreline for the last few decades. We have asked for some basic protections to the habitat.
That a home owner must produce a detailed state Hydraulic Project Approval (HPA) to describe possible negative effects of something as simple as a dock remodel, yet the aquaculture industry does not have to detail destruction  or mitigation of hundreds of acres of geoduck farm conversion of the same habitat, is an issue that must be addressed if we have any hope of restoring species. The industry claims that science has shown that the bottom (known as the benthic layer) will recover when the farms are removed. It is a well known fact that once a farm is installed, there is no ‘return to natural processes’ as the farm is in place essentially forever.
Kathy Fletcher and People for Puget Sound was involved in efforts to bring greater scientific scrutiny to the aquaculture industry in the late part of the last decade. These efforts were to find or create the science to prove the case of aquaculture consequences. The industry fought them to a standstill, ending with a long term study of impacts of aquaculture on the nearshore that found issues with the benthic layer and requested further study, which was never funded.  If People For Puget Sound would have had these emails, it may have significantly impacted the outcome of the debate back then, as the State knew that these impacts were possible yet did not choose to force the issue by requiring the same due diligence that individuals were required to do.  That these documents by public officials were not allowed into the public debate of that era is a travesty and a testament to the power of the lobbying machine that the shellfish industry employs. What is also disheartening is that the State apparently refused to bring environmental organizations into this discussion,  who where fighting for the protections that the State was unwilling to fight for themselves.

Ms Hendricks has joined a lawsuit seeking to force the state to issue HPA’s for aquaculture. The lawsuit seems to be  a long shot that may do more harm than good for the cause if they lose. But the  discussion in this email exchange is key to getting public officials off their positions about the lack of harm of aquaculture. The email definitively documents what a lead state habitat bureaucrat saw as the known dangers to the nearshore.

Very few are arguing against aquaculture in total. Most of us enjoy the fruits of their labor. But they, like all of us, need to operate within a framework of protections that ensure that they do as little harm as possible to the environment. 
We can have both better protections and aquaculture. But the industry has been not fully truthful in it’s attempts to paint itself as a beneficial environmental industry. They have fought to be self regulated. It’s clear that they have not earned the right to do so, since they cannot be trusted to put in place stringent environmental protections.  I highly recommend that you read the PDF document I attach from her below.

From Laura Hendricks:
Since many of you are still working on aquaculture regulations or permitting, we thought you would be interested in how the shellfish industry avoided state environmental regulation.
We found the attached records from a WDFW public records request that clearly document 28 pages of “Aquaculture-Fish Impacts” that WDFW compiled in 2000.
The 2002 letter from Gayle Kretiman is telling when she states: “Much of the Codes of Practice is written to convince the public that the shellfish industry is a good environmental steward and that further regulation is unnecessary…..”Though WDFW supports the intent of these statements, they are misleading given that the Code of Practice fails to inform the reader that the operations of the commercial shellfish industry in Washington State are currently unregulated at the state level.  To date, the Washington Department of Agriculture has failed to develop or adopt rules that address the risks and impacts to marine habitats and natural resources that can result from commercial shellfish operations.”
We can see why Mr. Dewey stated in his email that “So far, I am only mildly panicked.” It is clear that the shellfish lobbying stopped the state regulations in 2000 and instead introduced the self serving Environmental Codes of Practice (ECOP) that most counties/Shorelines Hearings Board used to guide their permitting in the past. It must also be noted that the Department of Agriculture never issued any aquaculture regulations and the new 2018 aquaculture office is there to streamline permitting–not to protect marine habitats and natural resources. It is a fact that the Shellfish Initiative which is only a lobbying effort called for by Taylor Shellfish and promoted by NOAA is now being used since the ECOP’s were no longer giving the industry cover from regulation.
Considering the massive lobbying efforts by the shellfish industry to avoid state regulation. it is even more important that our counties and the Army Corps protect our marine habitats when even WDFW lists 28 pages of “fish related impacts” as of May 17, 2000.
We must protect our marine habitats from industrial aquaculture if we have even a chance of saving Chinook salmon, Orca’s and other marine life. I have already sent this information to our Pierce County as they continue to work on their SMP update.
Sincerely,
Laura Hendricks
 The email conversation of 2002.
Additional readings on the subject. The Seattle Journal of Environmental Law published an article by Lindsay Ward, in May 2014. Called The Legal and Enviromental Implications of the Washington Shellfish Initiative: Is it Sustainable? This comprehensive overview of the legal framework which has been implemented since the emails of 2002 clearly shows how the state works together with the shellfish industry to promote shellfish farming over environmental protections, protections which were implemented to protect Hood Canal summer run Chum and Puget Sound Chinook salmon and it’s required habitat. The same salmon that Governor Inslee has recently signed an executive order and called a task force together to attempt to save.
From the Lindsay Ward document:

The economic importance of shellfish to Washington’s economy, both as a source of revenue and job creation, is evident. What is less clear, however, is the (Washingont Shellfish) Initiative’s ability to successfully carry out its objectives while following the legal mandates proscribed by Washington’s Shoreline Management Act (SMA), as well as other legal doctrines. While the Washington Shellfish Initiative bills itself as promoting a sustainable clean water industry, its directives fall far from the Initiative’s claim of enhancing and protecting this valuable resource in a sustainable manner. Where this endeavor may destroy our pristine coastal environments forever, an assessment of both legal mandates surrounding shellfish aquaculture as well as the environmental ramifications of improper shellfish aquaculture growth is necessary to ensure that Washington’s coastlines and encompassing habitat are protected from destruction.

Primarily, the environmental consequences of implementing the Initiative pose massive and irreparable consequences for the environment.”
Read the whole story on the history and current threats from the Washington Shellfish Initiative here:
Seattle Journal of Environmental Law:Vol 4. Issue 1 Article 6

Kelp continues steady decline in Puget Sound – Salish Sea Currents

We are in a race against the loss of the Sound ecosystem. Another report from the front.

Ever alert to predators, young rockfish swim warily among the stems of bull kelp that reach up from the bottom of Puget Sound. Within the kelp forest lurk many larger fish, such as lingcod, which would quickly gobble up the 2-inch juveniles if given a chance. Kelp forests, which are becoming rare in Central and South Puget Sound, are not necessarily secure refuges for the tiny rockfish, which feature spiny dorsal fins like their much larger parents. Still, the vegetation provides a safer cover than open water. It also offers the growing fish a rich smorgasbord of food — phytoplankton, krill, copepods, invertebrate eggs and other tiny bite-sized creatures. Chris Dunagan reports. (Salish Sea Currents)

Kelp continues steady decline in Puget Sound

 

Conservation Groups Sue State Over Permitting Exemptions

This is a huge lawsuit, as it challenges  the State exemptions for aquaculture from it’s Hydraulic Permit Applications, while forcing anyone seeking to redo a family dock to engage an engineering firm to file an HPA. I’m withholding comment on this lawsuit at present because as a board member of Sound Action, the NGO that independently reviews all HPAs and challenges ones that are environmentally unsound, we have a position on this lawsuit that will come out in the next few days.  The State exemption is something that we have publicly commented against in the past, but for a variety of reasons have not brought suit to challenge it.
There is much more background to this lawsuit that appears in this announcement and it will be interesting to see whether they have a case and the money that is capable of withstanding the considerable challenge of the aquaculture industry, including it’s P.R. machine.
If you want to support the efforts of the only organization that oversees the Hydraulic Code Permits and has successfully challenged them, feel free to donate to Sound Action. Go to our website www.soundaction.org to learn about the work we have done keeping the damage to our nearshore to a minimum and ensuring that the permitting is done in accordance with State law.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE–Case Number: 18-2-01972-34.
April 12, 2018
CONTACT:     Patrick Townsend (360) 359-4406
                     Laura Hendricks  (253) 509-4987
                     Kurt Beardslee    (425) 788-0125
CONSERVATION GROUPS SUE STATE TO DEMAND IT PROTECT COASTAL SHORELINES BY ENDING PERMITTING EXEMPTION FOR INDUSTRIAL SHELLFISH AQUACULTURE
Protect Zangle Cove, the Coalition to Protect Puget Sound Habitat and Wild Fish Conservancy filed suit today against the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (“WDFW”), demanding an end to the improper exemption of industrial shellfish aquaculture projects from state standards designed to protect fish and marine habitats.
Most construction projects in or near Washington waters must receive an Hydraulic Project Approval (“HPA”), which requires that they have safeguards in place to protect fish and their habitat. WDFW has exempted commercial aquaculture from this statutory requirement for many years, meaning aquaculture projects go forward without these crucial environmental safeguards.
The lawsuit filed in Thurston County Superior Court contends this exemption has no legal basis and asks the court to direct WDFW to apply the HPA law consistently to shellfish aquaculture projects. The suit also asks the court to halt development of a geoduck farm planned for Zangle Cove, a near pristine estuary in South Puget Sound, until it receives an HPA permit.
“With threatened Southern Resident killer whales and endangered native salmon at extreme risk, our state agencies have failed to implement the environmental protections that are critical to the broad scale ecological recovery of Puget Sound,” says Patrick Townsend, president of Protect Zangle Cove. “The action we are taking today is one important step toward restoring sanity to the recovery process. We must protect the tidelands from further loss of ecological function or we will see the loss of iconic species so important to the people of Washington State.”
Laura Hendricks, director of the Coalition To Protect Puget Sound Habitat, emphasizes that the lawsuit only asks the state to apply the law consistently.
“There is a double standard that exempts commercial shellfish aquaculture from the state HPA permitting system, even though these operations pose a severe threat to our fragile coastal habitats,” Hendricks says. “A private citizen installing a small dock needs to get an HPA permit, but a commercial shellfish facility would not need an HPA permit before constructing a facility that disrupts miles of pristine shoreline, destroys natural vegetation and aquatic life, and inserts tons of harmful plastic tubing, netting, and rebar into the tidelands.”
Commercial shellfish aquaculture is in the midst of dramatic expansion in Washington. These factory-farm like facilities already take up as many as 50,000 shoreline acres, or as much as one-quarter of all Washington tidelands. Significant expansion is planned in the immediate future,  focusing largely on geoducks raised to sell in the Asian luxury market.
A single-acre geoduck operation usually includes around 44,000 PVC tubes, four- or six-inches in diameter, and approximately ten inches long. This amounts to approximately seven miles of PVC tubing per acre, weighing between 11 and 23 tons. Plastic nets are typically installed over the entire geoduck bed to keep out native wildlife that would normally feed and shelter there.
Kurt Beardslee, co-founder and Executive Director of the Wild Fish Conservancy, says: “There’s no way around it, it’s a scientific fact: the industrial shellfish aquaculture industry routinely damages vast amounts of habitat critical to federally protected species, including wild salmon and steelhead, with little or no agency oversight.”
Protect Zangle Cove, the Coalition to Protect Puget Sound Habitat and Wild Fish Conservancy are represented in the litigation by the law firm of Lane Powell P.C.
                                                           ###
To view the complaint filed today, visit:
For more information about the impact of commercial shellfish aquaculture, visit:
                                                About Zangle Cove
Protect Zangle Cove is a nonprofit organization consisting of citizens who reside on the shores of South Puget Sound. Our mission is to protect the tideland of Zangle Cove from industrial geoduck aquaculture, preserve the critical habitat of Puget Sound tidelands, support the protection and restoration of eelgrass on Puget Sound tidelands, educate citizens about nearshore habitat, inform government officials about the problems from industrial shellfish aquaculture, and encourage rulemaking to protect Puget Sound shorelines for the enjoyment of citizens and for native species that make their homes here.
                              About Coalitoin To Protect Puget Sound Habitat
The Coalition is an alliance of citizens, environmentalists, scientists and recreational users concerned about industrial aquaculture and its impacts on plants, animals, and ecological functions. Our mission is to voice citizen concerns about industrial aquaculture and its adverse impact on the health and quality of Puget Sound and coastal waters, to effect changes in policies and regulations, and to encourage enforcement to protect shoreline habitat.
                                            About Wild Fish Conservancy
The Conservancy is a membership-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and recovery of the Northwest’s native fish species and the ecosystems upon which those species depend.
Photo Courtesy of the Coalition To Protect Puget Sound Habitat
A typical commercial geoduck facility, which uses approximately seven miles of PVC tubing per acre, weighing between 11 and 23 tons.

Future of orcas takes center stage at Salish Sea conference – PSI

It was worth spending even a day at the Salish Sea Conference. If you get a chance to go, you should.

Gov. Jay Inslee joined former Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to open three days of science talks at the Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference in Seattle. The conference includes about 700 scientific presentations on topics ranging from orcas to habitat restoration, from climate change to toxic chemicals.

https://www.eopugetsound.org/magazine/ssec2018/opening

Dr. Lucas Hart named Director of the Northwest Straits

This is incredibly good news. Choosing a successor to Rich Childers is not an easy task. We wish Rich all the best on his next step. He’s been a great leader for the Commission.

I’ve know Lucas since the last decade, when he volunteered to go down to Lobby Day sponsored by the late, great People for Puget Sound.

Lucas rode shotgun in my van as I took a load of folks down from Port Townsend. We talked the whole way down and back, and I got to know him. When we parted I was left thinking, “this is someone who I will be hearing about in the future.”

He joined us on the Jefferson County Marine Resources Committee, so I got to see him working with us on the programs we worked on, and then he got hired onto the Commission as Program Manager. His calm demeanor and solid work showed his ability to lead.

It is so hard to find leadership in roles such as this. It is critically important to find someone with a knowledge of place, a solid base of local contacts, hopefully someone who is being promoted from within for great work, leadership and helping an organization succeed. I’m truly thrilled that the NW Straits Commission took the step to recognize Lucas and promote him to this role. Congratulations, Lucas. We all look forward to working with you in the future.

The Northwest Straits Marine Conservation Commission is pleased to announce that Dr. Lucas Hart will be its next Director.  Dr. Hart has been with the Commission the past three years serving as the Marine Program Manager and brings a wealth of skills and experience to the role of Director. He is not only a skilled marine scientist and outstanding communicator, but has served in various volunteer positions with several Puget Sound conservation organizations and worked with these groups to advocate for their objectives before elected and appointed officials. Commission Chair Nan McKay said, “Members of the Commission look forward to Lucas’s leadership and to working with him to advance the goals of the Northwest Straits Initiative.” Please join us in welcoming Lucas as the new Director.  He will be starting this position officially on April 20, 2018.

Underwater noise pollution also disturbs fish, study suggests – CBC

More evidence that noise pollution in the waters of the Salish Sea can have negative impacts on more than just Orcas.

Plastics and oil aren’t the only types of pollution having a negative impact on fish. According to a new study entitled Sound the Alarm, noise is also a growing problem for the aquatic animals. “In terms of fish behaviour and physiology, it’s negative responses across the board,” said Kieran Cox, a doctoral student at the University of Victoria. Cox and fish ecologist, Francis Juanes, led the collaborative team that conducted the research, which was published in the peer-reviewed journal Global Change Biology. (CBC)

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/underwater-noise-pollution-also-disturbs-fish-study-suggests-1.4600024

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