After a decade of litigation, NOAA Fisheries and EPA will prepare a biological opinion on harm caused by Atlantic salmon net pens

From the Wild Fish Conservancy Press Release this morning. It’s unfortunate that those of us concerned about this issue needed to spend 10 years trying to force them to get to this simple issue. NOAA Fisheries have been one of the biggest boosters of net pen Atlantic salmon, never studying the wider effects of pens beyond a few hundred yards away from them. There has never been a wholistic approach to studying the effects of fish waste, food waste, chemicals added to the water, fish escapement, nor the issue that wild fish are attracted to the pens by food. What we learned from the net pen collapse last fall, was that the claims of the industry, repeated by spokesmen for Taylor Shellfish (who support net pens), that there was no way that Atlantic salmon would survive after escapement, were nothing but wishful thinking. Atlantic salmon from the pens were found far up the Skagit River basin and along the north outer shore of Vancouver Island. The misinformation campaigns of these industries that put profit ahead of environment are stunning in their audacity.


After a decade of litigation, NOAA Fisheries and EPA make the 11th hour decision to prepare a biological opinion on harm caused by Atlantic salmon net pens to ESA- listed salmon and steelhead.

The agencies have finally begun formal consultation under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to evaluate the potential harm caused by Atlantic salmon net pens in Puget Sound October 11th, 2018

Duvall, WA – On the eve of court proceedings over a legal battle Wild Fish Conservancy initiated in 2015, NOAA Fisheries and EPA have entered into formal consultation under the Endangered Species Act, consultation that will lead to the issuance of a biological opinion.

Under the Endangered Species Act, a biological opinion evaluates the extent of harm a proposed action will have on threatened or endangered species and whether such harm could jeopardize the continued existence of the species. Biological opinions also include conditions for monitoring and reducing harmful impacts to protected species.

Considering the abundant scientific evidence that open-water Atlantic salmon aquaculture may harm threatened and endangered salmonid species, Wild Fish Conservancy first argued that formal consultation and a biological opinion was necessary back in 2008, when we argued against the agencies’ decision that Atlantic salmon net pens were ‘not likely to adversely affect’ threatened and endangered species. We won that case in 2010, with the court ruling that NOAA and EPA had failed to use the best available science when making their decision and must reconsider whether a biological opinion is necessary.

Less than one year later, after a brief consultation, NOAA and EPA again decided that a biological opinion was unnecessary. This decision was shortly followed by a large-scale disease outbreak in Atlantic salmon net pens off the coast in Bainbridge Island in 2012, which killed over 1 million pounds of farmed Atlantic salmon during a time when juvenile wild salmon were out-migrating through Puget Sound.

Wild Fish Conservancy again challenged the agencies’ decision to avoid a biological opinion in 2015, a case that prompted NOAA and EPA last week to announce their intention to re-initiate consultation and finally prepare a biological opinion. That decision came only after the Court soundly rejected the agencies’ efforts to dismiss the case and ruled that the duty under the Endangered Species Act to re-initiate consultation does apply to EPA’s underlying action.

Since the case was filed in 2015, we have learned far more about the potential for harm the Atlantic salmon net pen industry presents to wild salmon and steelhead. In 2017, a collapsed net pen off the coast of Cypress Island released over 260,000 farmed Atlantic salmon into Puget Sound, nearly all of which are estimated to have been infected with Piscine Reovorius, a highly contagious and potentially lethal virus that may infect wild salmon. A study in 2018

demonstrated that PRV leads to debilitating disease in Chinook salmon, the primary food source of endangered Southern Resident killer whales.

This case comes at a time when key provisions of the Endangered Species Act are under threat in the United States Congress and underscores the monumental importance of the ESA, an act that has been critical in providing key protections to over one thousand threatened and endangered species across the country.

“While it shouldn’t have taken ten years of litigation for our agencies to realize the necessity of a biological opinion,” said Kurt Beardslee, Wild Fish Conservancy’s Executive Director, “I am glad to hear they have decided to change course, and I am hopeful that a biological opinion will lead to conditions and terms that will limit and monitor the harm caused by net pens to ESA-listed salmon and steelhead.

“Taking the utmost precaution is necessary to avoid the extinction of imperiled Pacific salmon and steelhead species, especially when considering the dire plight of Chinook salmon and the Southern Resident killer whales that are starving due to their struggling population.”

Contact

Kurt Beardslee, Executive Director, 425.788.1167/kurt@wildfishconservancy.org

About

Wild Fish Conservancy is a science & research conservation non-profit dedicated to the preservation, protection & restoration of wild fish ecosystems in the Pacific Northwest. We are headquartered in Duvall, WA. Learn more at wildfishconservancy.org

Wild Fish Conservancy is represented in this matter by the law firm of Kampmeier & Knutsen, PLLC, with offices in Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington.

While I was out rafting….

While I was off the grid on the Grande Ronde river with friends, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) that sets the stage to roll back NEPA and the environmental review process across the entire federal government. CEQ is currently only offering the public a 30-day comment period.

So we will need to refashion virtually all environmental laws by the time the Trump administration is done. Lots of work ahead. Maybe a lawsuit will be filed to stop this, as it may be illegal to undermine environmental review.

Groups Challenge Army Corps of Engineers’ Refusal to Protect Puget Sound Shorelines

Corps’ Seattle District violates Clean Water Act, endangers Sound recovery
May 21, 2018

Seattle, WA —A lawsuit filed today against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (“Corps”) charges that the agency has refused to assert its Clean Water Act jurisdiction over most shoreline armoring in Puget Sound, and that endangered species and Sound shorelines are suffering the negative impacts of the Corps’ continued inaction.

Washington Environmental Council, Sound Action and Friends of the San Juans filed the suit after the Corps rejected a science-based government recommendation to correct its unlawful definition of the Seattle District Corps’ jurisdiction over shoreline armoring projects.

The coalition, represented by Earthjustice, is calling for federal oversight of shoreline armoring by raising what the Corps’ Seattle District considers the “high tide line” in order to better protect at-risk species and the shorelines themselves. The lawsuit also calls for a response to the groups’ 2015 petition asking for jurisdictional decisions on four shoreline armoring projects. The groups contend a strong federal policy to protect shorelines is critical to Puget Sound recovery.

“Shoreline armoring impairs the health of Puget Sound by damaging nearshore habitat important for forage fish that feed salmon,” said Mindy Roberts, Puget Sound director for Washington Environmental Council. “Currently, federal agencies don’t consider impacts from these structures, because their definition of what constitutes ‘the shoreline’ is too lax.”

Background

Armoring is the placement of hard structures — boulders, jetties, seawalls — on shorelines to help prevent erosion. The Corps is required by law to review proposed armoring projects up to the “high tide line,” which is generally the line at which land meets the water. But the Corps’ Seattle District uses a much lower tidal marker (known as the “mean higher high water” mark). As a result, the Seattle District does not review the majority of armoring projects in Puget Sound.

The Corps’ failure to assert jurisdiction means there has been no federal oversight of whether most armoring projects in the Sound meet the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act or any other federal requirement.

Further, the Corps recently rejected an interagency recommendation to use a higher tidal marker, in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act, which prohibits arbitrary and capricious agency actions. In rejecting the recommendation, the Corps ignored sound science and the law.

“The Corps has known for years that its high tide line marker in Puget Sound is unlawfully low,” said Anna Sewell, Earthjustice attorney for the plaintiffs. “But the Corps put its head in the sand and rejected a science-based recommendation from three regional federal agencies — including the Seattle District Corps itself — to protect 8,600 acres of shoreline area by raising that marker.”

This troubling lack of federal support puts Puget Sound shorelines at risk of further deterioration, particularly when shoreline armoring is well documented to be one of the most significant risks to the Sound.

“Puget Sound is already on the brink of collapse due to continued habitat loss, and it’s critical that the laws put in place to protect nearshore ecosystems are both followed and enforced,” said Sound Action Executive Director Amy Carey. “Unless we act now, the forage fish, the salmon and the orcas that are so desperately struggling to survive will be lost forever. It’s up to all of us to ensure this doesn’t happen — and it starts by holding the permitting agencies accountable for doing their jobs.”

“By disavowing its statutory authority, the Corps has shielded harmful projects from a review of their impacts on critically endangered and culturally vital Northwest species,” added Kyle Loring, staff attorney, Friends of the San Juans. “Its high-tide interpretation also leaves state and local governments on their own, at a time when our publicly-funded agencies should be working together to do everything in their power to protect what remains of our region’s rich heritage.”

The Corps must respond to the lawsuit within 60 days.

Reporter Resource

Read the brief.

1/19 – Meeting set in Sequim on net pen bills – PDN

You can make your voice heard. Come to this meeting and let our Representatives know what you think, and that there is public support and momentum on the Peninsula for at least two of these bills.  I don’t currently support Chapman and Tharinger’s bill. There is already plenty of science on the dangers of Atlantic salmon in net pens.  They should be supporting a ban on the use of all net pens for non native fish now, and support scientific research (like that going on in Manchester) for the possible use of limited small net pens for native fish, (for unique one off reasons like species reintroduction, etc). Also state funding and support of upland fish farming should be encouraged. It is proven to work elsewhere, but the scale to make it economically viable is difficult. We should be encouraging these efforts, and helping tribes such as the Jamestown S’Klallam to understand if it’s worth doing.

SEQUIM — Sen. Kevin Van De Wege and Rep. Mike Chapman are expected to discuss legislation dealing with Atlantic salmon net pens at a meeting in Sequim. The meeting is set from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Jan. 19 at the Sequim City Transit Center, 190 W. Cedar St.

Three bills related to net pens are making their way in the Legislature: Senate Bill 6086, House Bill 2418 and HB 2260.

SB 6086, https://goo.gl/ruyF9s co-sponsored by Van De Wege, would phase-out the pens as their leases expire.

HB 2418, https://goo.gl/Gn2UNY co-sponsored by Chapman and Tharinger, would delay construction of new nonnative fin fish aquaculture facilities until thorough study, including structural analysis of existing facilities, is complete.

HB 2260 https://goo.gl/k4h8Ln would prohibit Atlantic salmon being used in aquaculture in Washington state.

Read the whole story at:

http://www.peninsuladailynews.com/news/meeting-set-in-sequim-on-net-pen-bills/

 

Washington State Legislative Update 2/2

Committee hearings are essentially over. If a bill you support didn’t make it out of committee, it’s probably dead for this year.

The legislature’s site for tracking all bills is here:  Bill Information

How you can watch and participate in the legislative process from the comfort of your home.

 

Some important bills:

Senate Bill 6086 – Protecting the state’s marine waters from the release of nonnative finfish from marine finfish aquaculture sites.

http://app.leg.wa.gov/billsummary?BillNumber=6086&Year=2017

HB 2431 and SB 6456. This would hand land use oversight to military commanders in areas near bases. Theoretically it could hand over veto power on land use regs to anywhere in Washington State! Supported by a governor (yes, Inslee) committee that is mainly the Chamber of Commerce in many military counties.  – Did not make out of committee.

 

 

 

 

Environmental Concerns Top Of Mind As Lawmakers Reconvene In Olympia – KNKX

As the state legislative session begins Monday, climate activists are out in full force in Olympia. They’re urging lawmakers to take bold steps to slow global warming. Climate action is one of four legislative priorities for 2018 put forth by a statewide coalition of environmental groups. Each year, the Washington Conservation Voters and the Washington Environmental Council put out legislative priorities based on the input of more than 20 organizations working statewide…. Also on their list is finding a sustainable solution to the water management crisis known as the Hirst Decision, which held up the capital budget last year. And there are two specific bills they want passed. The first is the Healthy Food Packaging Act, which would ban toxic non-stick chemicals used in everything from microwave popcorn bags to pizza boxes and muffin wrappers.  Finally, a new Oil Spill Prevention Act would extend the barrel tax on oil to pipelines and raise it by 2 cents to protect the state from evolving risks in oil transportation.  Bellamy Pailthorp reports. (KNKX)

 http://www.bit.ly/2mcYlJw

How Coral Researchers Are Coping With the Death of Reefs – The Atlantic

While not specifically Olympic Peninsula News, many of us venture to places during our lives expecting to see coral. Whether you have gone to Hawaii, Belize, Mexico or any other beautiful tropical setting, the ability to snorkel the local reefs has been an experience that often creates environmental protection support. But there are warning signs everywhere. Anyone that has gone to a reef lately has seen the bleached coral and the lack of diversity of species. Even the scientists are getting depressed. Why post this? Because it is going to take all of us to eventually *demand* we take the radical steps needed to save the planet before it’s too late. By saving it, I mean that we are going to, at some point in the lives of people alive today, need to demand and take steps that will be extremely painful and life altering for every single person on this planet. That day is not far off. We have just lost Puerto Rico, drowned much of Houston, have seen three Category 4 storms land in the U.S. in one year, burned up much of the part of California that produces hundreds of millions of dollars of wine products, burned up huge amounts of Canadian western forests, and more. Our President that refuses to believe the trouble we are in seems simply incompetent rather than in the know. In fact, a concerted effort to destroy any scientific knowledge of the issue  is underway by his administration. This rivals the Nazi rewriting of German science in the 30s.  We are experiencing a similar situation to the German people then.  Some of us will flee. But the question all of us should be asking is, “what more can I do than I’m doing now?”

“The drumbeat of devastating news can take its toll on the mental health of people who have devoted their lives to coral.”

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/11/coral-scientists-coping-reefs-mental-health/546440/

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