Trouble on the Half Shell

Scientists have discovered a mystery parasite—what will it mean for the future of Washington’s oysters?

Interesting article that features the Jamestown S’Klallam and their efforts to restore Olympia Oysters, and scientists trying to better understand the history of this mysterious parasite.

FDA Sued Over Failure to Release Documents Regarding Approval of Genetically Engineered Salmon, Planned Ohio Production Facility 

While this is not local news, it does show that the aquaculture industry seems to be untrustworthy when it comes to honesty to the public. We have seen this many times locally. As mentioned before, the only way to protect our environment seems to be in the courts. We have seen many times recently that we cannot trust the FDA, NOAA, State & Federal EPA, local officials nor the Army Corps of Engineers to actually do their jobs in following the law to protect our environment. The only thing that seems to stop them is lawsuits.

“After years of touting that it will grow its fish in tanks that recycle the water, the company now plans to pump water from the aquifer that supplies community drinking water and dump wastewater back into a nearby stream. Without the requested documents, we have no way to know if FDA has fully considered the effects this facility will have on the local environment.” 


SAN FRANCISCO—Today, Center for Food Safety (CFS) filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for unlawfully withholding records regarding FDA’s environmental assessment of genetically engineered (GE) salmon and a planned Ohio-based production facility—a major expansion from current capacity. The FOIA lawsuit comes on the heels of CFS and allies’ successful lawsuit holding FDA’s approval of GE salmon unlawful. FDA’s approval marked the first time any government in the world had approved a GE animal as food. 

“Despite the 2020 court decision holding FDA’s first-ever approval of a genetically engineered food animal unlawful, FDA claims it needs nearly two years to produce records,” said Amy van Saun, senior attorney at Center for Food Safety. “But our request is narrow and straightforward: it’s time for FDA to tell the public about the possible environmental and ecological effects of genetically engineered salmon, including any effects to endangered wild salmon species.”  

AquaBounty’s AquAdvantage GE salmon is produced with DNA from Atlantic salmon, Pacific king salmon, and Arctic Ocean eelpout. In 2016, CFS and Earthjustice—representing a broad client coalition of environmental, consumer, commercial and recreational fishing organizations and the Quinault Indian Nation—sued FDA over the agency’s approval of GE salmon, citing inadequate environmental assessments and broad risks to ecosystems. 

In 2020, in a victory for CFS and allies, a California district court ruled the FDA violated core federal environmental laws in approving GE salmon, including failing to fully assess the serious environmental consequences of approving a GE salmon and the full extent of plans to grow and commercialize the salmon in the U.S. and around the world. The court sent the approval back to FDA to undertake more thorough environmental analyses to inform the public about the potential risks. 

After that ruling, AquaBounty announced plans to build a $200 million facility, expanding its production of GE salmon by 10,000 metric tons. This operation will be eight times larger than its existing Indiana facility. With action in play to produce GE salmon on an even larger scale, it is even more important to understand the environmental and ecological risks of producing and marketing GE salmon for human consumption.  

In October 2021, CFS submitted a FOIA request to FDA, seeking all documents related to FDA’s environmental assessments of AquaBounty’s AquAdvantage salmon and the planned Ohio facility, pursuant to the district court’s ruling. FDA is yet to produce the records, prompting CFS to now sue FDA under FOIA.  

“We are concerned that FDA is not paying careful attention to AquaBounty’s planned expansion in Ohio,” said Jaydee Hanson, policy director at Center for Food Safety. “After years of touting that it will grow its fish in tanks that recycle the water, the company now plans to pump water from the aquifer that supplies community drinking water and dump wastewater back into a nearby stream. Without the requested documents, we have no way to know if FDA has fully considered the effects this facility will have on the local environment.” 

CFS is committed to ensuring the public has access to information concerning government regulation of food production and labeling. CFS’s FOIA program is committed to upholding the principles embodied in FOIA, such as maintaining an open and transparent government. 

# # # 

Center for Food Safety’s mission is to empower people, support farmers, and protect the earth from the harmful impacts of industrial agriculture. Through groundbreaking legal, scientific, and grassroots action, we protect and promote your right to safe food and the environment. Please join our more than one million members across the country at www.centerforfoodsafety.org. Twitter: @CFSTrueFood 

Concerns remain over tribe’s oyster farm in Dungeness Bay – Sequim Gazette

More on the ongoing battle over the Dungeness Spit oyster farm.

Groups Again Sue Army Corps to Protect Washington’s Coastal Areas and Endangered Species from Industrial Shellfish Operations

Back to the battle lines in the courthouse to make the Army Corps. of Engineers live up to the law. They were found guilty of not doing diligence in the last year, and yet they reissued the same permits in the last days of the Trump administration with no changes by sending out “Letters of Permission” to get around the ruling. A truly cynical move. What can you do about this? Donate to either CFS or the Coalition to Protect Puget Sound Habitat. From the press release today:


SEATTLE—Today, Center for Food Safety (CFS) and Coalition to Protect Puget Sound Habitat filed a lawsuit in federal court to stop the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) from continuing the excessive expansion of industrial shellfish operations without considering the cumulative impacts to Washington’s rich and diverse coastal waters. Industrial shellfish operations adversely affect Washington’s shorelines and estuaries by destroying critical habitat for numerous species, including endangered and threatened salmon and killer whales. These operations harm Washington’s aquatic and nearshore areas by increasing plastic netting and debris, micro-plastics, pesticides, and disturbances in the environment. 

“Despite clear statutory mandates and a previous court decision requiring the government to fully consider the potential impacts of proposed shellfish operations, the Corps continues to ignore its duties by allowing industrial shellfish operations to degrade important aquatic habitats, including through the use of plastics and pesticides, endangering Washington’s shorelines, biodiversity, and surrounding communities,” said Amy van Saun, senior attorney at CFS.

In the complaint filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, plaintiffs argue that the nationwide permit (NWP 48 of 2021) authorizing commercial shellfish operations in Washington violates several federal environmental protection laws, including the Clean Water Act (CWA), National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Endangered Species Act, and Administrative Procedure Act. The complaint also challenges the Corps’ unlawful use of “Letters of Permission” (LOP) to approve industrial shellfish operations without public notice or comment and without considering their overall cumulative impacts. 

The new lawsuit comes on the heels of a previous lawsuit against the Corps, where CFS and allies successfully sued the Trump administration for issuing a similar nationwide permit (NWP 48 of 2017). The court found the previous 2017 permit unlawful under CWA and NEPA, stating that the Corps had failed to adequately consider the impacts on Washington’s shorelines and wildlife habitat, including the cumulative effects of expanding or continuing operations in sensitive areas. In a victory for plaintiffs, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals subsequently affirmed the lower court’s decision. 

In January 2021, during the last few days of the Trump administration, the Corps finalized the new nationwide permit for commercial shellfish aquaculture activities. In rushing to issue the permit, the Corps ignored comments from plaintiffs and stakeholders urging the agency to fix problems with its impact analysis before issuing the new permit. For example, neither the 2017 permit nor the 2021 reissuance include any restrictions on pesticide or plastic use. Much like the unlawful 2017 permit, the 2021 permit authorizes commercial shellfish aquaculture activities in Washington without full consideration of the potential adverse effects to aquatic ecosystems and wildlife, prompting CFS and allies to launch another lawsuit to vacate the permit.

“The Coalition is outraged that the Corps would try to avoid doing what is necessary as a bare minimum under the law to protect orcas, salmon, and marine life in Washington from the toxic and physical impacts of the massive number of industrial-scale aquaculture operations that have been proposed,” said Laura Hendricks, director of the Coalition to Protect Puget Sound Habitat. “This is precisely the sort of agency action that gives ‘government’ a bad name.”
 

The Corps has already relied on the 2021 NWP 48 to approve thousands of acres of industrial shellfish activities in Washington’s coastal areas, and the LOPs to approve thousands more without public input. Many of the acres authorized for shellfish aquaculture are located near critical spawning, breeding, and feeding habitats for forage fish, threatened and endangered species of salmon and green sturgeon, birds, whales, and other wildlife species. Additionally, operations authorized under the new permit destroy eelgrass and other aquatic plants that provide habitat to wildlife and other essential ecosystem services, such as carbon sequestration, sediment stabilization, and nutrient balancing, which help mitigate the effects of climate change. 

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are CFS and Coalition to Protect Puget Sound. CFS is represented by counsel from CFS and Coalition to Protect Puget Sound is represented by the Law Office of Karl G. Anuta and Law Office of Mike Sargetakis.

A Second Court Rejects Cooke Aquaculture’s Challenge Over Termination of Port Angeles Net Pen Lease

Port Angeles Netpen managed by Cook Aquaculture – Photo provided by Wild Fish Conservancy

Cook loses another one. Very good news.

Media Contacts: Kurt Beardslee, Executive Director, kurt@wildfishconservancy.org

DECEMBER 17, 2021—In another legal defeat for Cooke Aquaculture, a second Washington state court has rejected efforts by the seafood giant to sue Washington state over the termination of the company’s lease for their Port Angeles netpen operation. On Tuesday, the Court of Appeals issued an opinion affirming a lower court ruling upholding the Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) decision to terminate the lease.

The Court’s decision represents another major step forward in the public’s hard-fought efforts to remove this dirty industry from Puget Sound waters,” says Kurt Beardslee, Executive Director. “I applaud the Courts for putting our natural resources and the interest of the public ahead of this powerful corporate interest.”

The court said:

We hold that the superior court properly applied the arbitrary and capricious standard of
review because DNR’s decision to terminate the lease was administrative, and that DNR’s decision to terminate the lease was not arbitrary and capricious. Accordingly, we affirm the superior court’s final order upholding DNR’s lease termination decision.

This week’s decision concludes a nearly four-year appeal process that began in early 2018 when Cooke filed suit against DNR, arguing the agency had wrongfully terminated the lease ahead of the 2025 expiration date. In 2020, a Thurston County Superior Court Judge rejected Cooke’s challenge and the company appealed the decision to the Court of Appeals which issued the opinion this week.

DNR terminated the lease in December 2017 after an investigation revealed various violations at the Port Angeles facility,including operating outside of its boundaries, failure to pay rent timely, and not operating the facility in a safe condition.Shortly following the termination, the net pens were completely removed from Port Angeles Harbor.This week the Court overwhelming rejected Cooke’s opinion that the decision to terminate the lease was arbitrary and capricious, finding DNR’s decision “was based on facts supported by substantial evidence, pursuant to plain terms of the contract, was well reasoned and made with due regard to the facts and circumstances.”Cooke is also suing DNR in a separate ongoing lawsuit over the early termination of the company’s Cypress Island lease.The lease was terminated following the 2017 catastrophic collapse of a Cooke net pen that released over 260,000 nonnative Atlantic salmon infected with an exotic virus into Puget Sound. A comprehensive investigation by Washington agencies found Cooke at fault for the collapse and Cooke was also required to pay $2.75 million in Clean Water Act violations in a lawsuit brought by Wild Fish Conservancy. The collapse also resulted in Washington passing a landmark and widely celebrated law banning all nonnative Atlantic salmon finfish aquaculture, Cooke’s only enterprise at the time.“I hope the public will join me in thanking Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz and her department for their unwavering commitment to protecting Puget Sound in the face of Cooke’s meritless, costly, and time-consuming lawsuits,” says Beardslee. “Under Commissioner Franz’s leadership, DNR has a proven record as the only regulatory agency in Washington willing to take bold action to hold this dangerous industry accountable.”In a controversial decision, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife permitted Cooke in 2020 to begin rearing steelhead in their Puget Sound net pens where the company holds valid leases. With the Cypress Island and Port Angeles leases terminated by DNR, Cooke only holds valid leases for two net pen sites in Puget Sound. Both leases will expire next year and Cooke will need to apply and secure new leases from DNR to continue operating in Washington. In a letter to Cooke earlier this year, DNR warned the company that the agency has not yet decided if they will issue Cooke new leases.“This week’s Court decision could not have come at a more important time. With Cooke’s only existing leases set to expire next year, DNR is in a critical decision-making period that will determine the future of this industry in Puget Sound,” says Beardslee. “

The Court’s decision removes any opportunity for Cooke to try and recover millions in lost revenue from DNR, which would have provided Cooke important leverage to potentially negotiate their future and new leases in our public waters.”

In July 2020, Wild Fish Conservancy submitted official applications to DNR requesting to lease all of the sites used by Cooke for commercial net pen aquaculture. This alternative proposal, the Taking Back Our Sound Restoration Project,seeks to hold these waters in public trust for the sole purposes of restoring these polluted sites to their natural state and restoring the public’s access to over 130 acres of Puget Sound that have been restricted for private profit for over three decades. This proposal is supported by a broad-based coalition of over 100 businesses and organizations and over 6,000 individuals who have signed onto an ongoing petition to Commissioner Franz calling on DNR to not extend, renew, or reissue leases for commercial net pen aquaculture in Puget Sound and to instead lease these waters for this unprecedented restoration project.“The expiration of these leases comes only once in a decade and offers the public a rare opportunity to work together to take back our sound from the net pen industry, “says Beardslee. “Cooke’s first lease will expire in March 2022, there foreit’s critical at this time that we continue to work together to call on DNR to make the right decision for wild fish and the health of Puget Sound.

In western Washington’s Elwha River, the removal of two dams led to a resurgence of fish runs; could a similar scenario play out on the Snake River? – Lewiston Tribune

Very interesting short story by a reporter for the Lewiston Tribune who was sent to get an overview of the success of the Elwha Dam removal and how it might be applied to the Snake River dam removals. Lots of good context to the story, including comparing the John Day and the Snake, along with interview excerpts from tribal members of the Lower Elwha on restoration results. Worth a quick, read.

“What has been really exciting has not only been the increase in abundance we have seen in a lot of species, but we are starting to see new life histories arise that we didn’t see before the dams were out,” he said. “For example, summer steelhead have come back really strong, the bull trout have resumed migration back to the ocean and the king salmon are starting to produce remarkable numbers of naturally produced offspring.”

https://www.kpvi.com/news/national_news/in-western-washington-s-elwha-river-the-removal-of-two-dams-led-to-a-resurgence/article_37f34ba0-3969-550a-9e6e-8a8b4c47974c.html
Elwha Dam – Photo by National Park Service

December’s first razor clam digs moving ahead on Washington coast

More good news.

OLYMPIA – Razor clam digging continues in December, as shellfish managers with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) have approved the next round of digs for Washington’s coastal beaches.

Photo courtesy NOAA

The latest tests for marine toxins came back all clear from the Washington Department of Health, which means the first round of December digs can proceed as planned.

“The weather hasn’t always been cooperative the last couple of weeks, but there’s still plenty of opportunities to hit the beach and dig for some razor clams,” said Dan Ayres, coastal shellfish manager with WDFW. “Hopefully December will bring some clearer winter days for people to get out and enjoy this amazing resource.”

Read the whole story here:

https://wdfw.wa.gov/news/decembers-first-razor-clam-digs-moving-ahead-washington-coast-0

West Coast Dungeness crab season to open Dec. 1 for first time in years – AP

Very good news for both the crab and those of us that eat them.

For the first time in years, commercial Dungeness crab fisheries in Oregon, Washington state and Northern California will begin on the traditional Dec. 1 opener after recent preseason testing showed high meat yield in crabs across the region.

Seattle Times
Photo courtesy of NOAA

Read the whole story here.

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/west-coast-dungeness-crab-season-to-open-dec-1-for-first-time-in-years/

https://wdfw.wa.gov/news/marine-area-10-seattlebremerton-reopens-nov-22-late-season-crab-fishing

Anti-Resort Group Requests Jefferson County Collect Fees from Pleasant Harbor Proposal Work

The ongoing saga of the development of Black Point, a beautiful promontory covered in tall firs and having unique geographic elements overlooking the Hood Canal, has taken another turn for the worse. It appears that the Statesman Group, the international developer who claimed to have vast resources available to successfully do this project, has not paid the County for work that the county did on behalf of them for the last six years. The county, operating on good faith back then, along with the County Commissioners that backed it, bought their promises without any financial bonding to ensure the work would be completed on time and budget. Hundreds of people in the County publicly questioned this decision and unfortunately, they appear to have been proven correct in their concerns.

The Brinnon Group, the organization of local people challenging the Pleasant Harbor has requested that Jefferson County  collect the fees due it by for the work done on the proposal.These fees, in the amount of $191,379.25, are for 2133 hours of work the county did for Statesman between 2016 and 2019.  It is unclear if Statesman is in breach of contract with the county, and whether the county could sue for payment and revoke the agreement. It is also unclear of whether the county has been attempting to collect on these fees.The invoice provided to The Brinnon Group attorney, was dated June 6th, 2020.

The letter, sent to Jefferson County Chief Civil Deputy Prosecuting Attorney  Philip C. Hunsucker called into question the financial ability of the Statesmen group to complete the project. It stated the following (bold face has been done by me to highlight key issues):


Dear Mr. Hunsucker: As you know, this office represents the Brinnon Group, a local community organization concerned with the proposed master planned resort (MPR) at Black Point. This proposal, termed the Pleasant Harbor development, has been under various stages of review since 2007.

Most recently, a development plan was approved that called for phased construction on the site. However, to date there has been little progress toward completion of the development plan, which advertises a variety of amenities for the community, including a large community center.

Over the past several years, Statesman’s development proposal has consumed significant time of county staff in reviewing and processing this complex proposal. Pursuant to adopted codes and ordinances, well known to Statesman, Jefferson County charges staff time spent on land development proposals back to the developer. This process, adopted by the Jefferson County Commissioners, is to assure that county taxpayers do not subsidize land developers. The requirement of reimbursement applies uniformly to all persons using the services of Jefferson County planning employees.

Over the past several months, my client has directed emails to the County regarding the Pleasant Harbor development and the status of billings and payments by Statesman for work performed by county employees. After expressing financial concerns about this project numerous times, my client was shocked to find that Statesman is in arrears to the County for $191,379.25, accumulated from 2016 to 2019, representing more than 2,000 staff hours spent on the Pleasant Harbor application (see Attachment 1, Jefferson County Invoice 20-001 issued June 9, 2020). Based on current information, we cannot find a record of payment for these fees. Our investigation has been hampered by redactions of emails and other information by your office, which seem wholly inappropriate when inquiries into taxpayer-supported county finances are involved.

It certainly appears that special privileges are being extended to Statesman by Jefferson County. County residents or other developers who owe taxes and fees to the County are expected to promptly pay their obligations and cannot just ask the County to “put it on their tab” for several years. Article 8, Section 7 of the Washington Constitution states: “No county, city, town or other municipal corporation shall hereafter give any money, or property, or loan its money, or credit to or in aid of any individual, association, company or corporation . . .” (emphasis added). While Jefferson County appropriately grants leeway to county residents in times of need, such as that caused by Covid-19 impacts, Statesman is a large development company with substantial holdings in the United States and Canada and certainly has, or should have resources to pay its bills.

The Statesman’s arrearage to the County raises another serious issue: does Statesman have the resources to implement the complex venture they are proposing? The Pleasant Harbor plan includes multiple phases, most of which will require substantial financial wherewithal to construct. One of the proposed amenities is the large community center, which will be a multi-million dollar project with unclear and uncertain financial returns. A redflag on Statesman finances was raised back in August, 2016, when the company distributed a flyer that proposed public financing of the Pleasant Harbor development. A copy of that brochure is attached. Statesman proposed a $2,000,000 “Recreational Community Grant” from Jefferson County. A transfer of about 30 acres of the Pleasant Harbor site to the state for another Recreational Community Grant in the amount of $9,250,000 was proposed (a cost of over $308,000/acre of undeveloped, vacant land), as well as a $26,500,000 loan from the state. These requests totaled almost $38,000,000 in corporate welfare to Statesman.

During this time in 2016, while Statesman was asking for public money for its project, it was not paying its bills to Jefferson County. These events raise the real concern that Statesman lacks the financial backing to complete the Pleasant Harbor proposal. The Northwest and other parts of the United States are littered with partially completed resort and recreational proposals that have been abandoned. Regrettably, these failures have created substantial costs for local governments.

Based on the foregoing, Jefferson County should take two actions. First, it should insist that Statesman’s past due bills for county services be paid immediately, and with interest. Jefferson County finances are not such that special privileges and deferral of payment can be allowed to land developers, including Statesman. After Statesman has come current on their account, the County should insist that any additional services provided be paid in a timely fashion. If further deferrals of payment are proposed by Statesman, they should be accompanied by complete financial security or a bond for payment to the County, such as an irrevocable line of credit from an established financial institution.

Second, Jefferson County should insist that Statesman demonstrate that it has the financial backing to complete the entire Pleasant Harbor project. These assurances should take the form of third party assurances of financing for the project, again from established banks or other financial institutions, or private committed financing. Jefferson County is not Statesman’s bank. Moreover, it is time for the County to insist, after 15 years of inaction, that Statesman demonstrate it can complete this project and not leave Jefferson County taxpayers holding the bag for a partially completed project that does not meet master plan resort standards. 

J. Richard Aramburu

The letter from Mr. Aramburu goes on to state that

Moreover, our investigations have disclosed a residential/recreational development in eastern
British Columbia with many similarities to Pleasant Harbor, this one called Pine Ridge. One of those
similarities is a proposed and promised community center which has been advertised as far back as 2008.
Over the years, Statesman has also proposed public financing for this project. However, neither public nor
private financing has been secured for this community center, and, like the one at Pleasant Harbor, it has
not been constructed. A video from Statesman discussing the project, and community center, is here
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hhE0z31AGLw. Discussion of the proposed Community Center
occurs at approximately 2’35”.

The County has been in discussions with the Statesman Group to get these bills paid, but the Groups’ lawyer is pushing back very hard on the County, refusing to pay based on a variety of details. On May 19th the County sent an email to the lawyer for Statesman, very strongly worded about the County’s billing, and demanding immediate payment.

Is the county finally ready to withdraw this approval and force Statesman to go back to the drawing board for this project? Is anyone at the county paying attention to this project at all?

Proposed Pleasant Harbor Resort

Will Reviving B.C.s declining salmon stocks require a rethink of hatcheries? – The Narwhal

Someday the people unwilling to even consider the end of hatcheries will come around to the science that is more and more frequently showing it doesn’t help.


After 150 years of experimenting, it’s becoming clear that pumping more baby fish into the ocean may actually be making the problem worse. Ryan Stuart reports…Releasing more fish into the environment might seem like an easy solution to declining numbers. But in nature, this rarely works. 

The Narwhal

https://bityl.co/9NdB

Can biologists estimate the massive loss of shellfish caused by low tides, high temps? PSI

We are just beginning to understand the incredible loss of shellfish from the latest heat wave.


The putrid smell of rotting shellfish on some beaches in Puget Sound and elsewhere along the West Coast were a clear sign that large numbers of clams, mussels, oysters and other intertidal creatures were killed from exposure to extreme low tides, record-breaking temperatures and a blazing hot sun. The total losses of shellfish that perished late last month may be difficult to estimate, but experts are beginning to piece together evidence from shoreline residents, state and tribal biologists, and commercial shellfish growers. Their goal is to describe what took place during the record-breaking temperatures of June 25-29 during some of the lowest tides of the past century. Christopher Dunagan reports. (Puget Sound Institute)

Can biologists estimate the massive loss of shellfish caused by low tides, high temps?

Response from Alexandra Morton on yesterday’s article

Yesterday, I published an article here about new research findings of the spread of Picene Orthoreovirus from farmed salmon to wild stocks. In it, I described some of the work that Alexandra Morton had done to bring this to the attention of the world. After reading the article, a local radio host has reached out to her to have her on and discuss her work. During the email exchange, Alexandra talked about the history of the attacks by the salmon farming industry on her, which I had mentioned happening in our local Marine Resources Committee. Here is an excerpt of her response. Unfortunately my blog entry does not allow me to publish PDFs, so I am posting a link to the folder on my web site to download and view the documents if you are interested. 

From Alexandra: “Yes, they like to say I am not a scientist, and yet I was the first to publish that the PRV in British Columbia was a match for PRV in Lofoten Norway (attached), and now 8 years later it would appear I was right.  I have also published on the spread of the virus into wild salmon…  The trouble with these claims is that I am published in some of the top scientific journals in the world, and despite their efforts to get my papers retracted, they have failed.

They have been completely silent about my new book wherein I detail internal DFO/industry communications.”

 

The link to the files is here. I’ll leave it up for 14 days, and then if you want it contact me directly. The radio interview will come out later this month or next. I’ll post when it does. 

https://mountainstoneconsulting-my.sharepoint.com/:f:/p/alb/Eq-IeJs3chpCj8Yfjm_uR1wB84-GXNSLL7D4LgWy7pF54A?e=2eQO35

Winding down Puget Sound’s 2020 targets, as approved shellfish acreage keeps going up – PSI

A good look at the state of shellfish bed recovery over the last 10 years, as measured by the Puget Sound Partnership. This is one indicator that seems to be going in a positive direction. Of course, the goal of this is to promote the conversion of public beaches into industrial aquaculture, so it’s a mixed bag. Some day we’ll see a real discussion in the public sphere about how many acres we are going to convert to industrial aquaculture before they are all turned into off limit farms for the profit of a few large aquaculture organizations. Good reporting from the Puget Sound Institute. Worth reading.

Cooke’s Washington steelhead switch approved – The Fish Site

As long time readers of this blog will note, I am highly critical of the state granting permission to this company, which did such a horrible job of managing it’s facilities in the past. They showed by their previous actions to be incapable of being trusted in their maintenance and operational quality. The State also has fault, in that the legislature allowed, in years gone by, to have the over-site of the pens split between two different state agencies. The hope is that the over-site has been significantly strengthened, and that given the fiasco they brought to themselves that they have learned something. The article sited here only mentions that they passed the State’s scientific muster. No mention of tighter rules and regs on the farms.

They have also been working with some tribes locally in a type of partnership, which was to be expected as the tribes supported shutting down the raising of Atlantic salmon but did not want to back removing the pens. I predicted then that the tribes would be looking to get into the net pen business as Cooke was evicted, and here we are. The “science” that found that there is no ‘harm’ to the environment likely downplayed the destruction to the benthic layer under the farms, which is total and for all practical purposes, permanent, as long as the farm is there. We’ve seen NOAA downplay this risk, in order to promote aquaculture.

Cooke Aquaculture has been granted permission to start growing steelhead at four of its former salmon sites in Washington State.

https://thefishsite.com/articles/cookes-washington-steelhead-switch-approved

Hotly debated national permit for shellfish farms could be passed to Biden Administration – Puget Sound Institute

This is an important article to help one understand the forces at play over this issue. The Army Corp of Engineers current proposal, described in this article, would lead to more destruction of the remaining virgin bays it wants for commercial activities and likely lead to ever more lawsuits. The Corps and the industry are in this mess because a group challenged the Corps and unearthed the fraud behind the science they have been putting out for decades. Now we hold our breath and see if we get a push into the next administration for update to the process, but will they send it back for changes or approve it to get the industry back working?

But as they leave, the wrecking crew of the Trump administration is doing it’s best to destroy any and all environmental protections.

Legal protections for marine shorelines, streams and wetlands could be revised just before President Trump leaves office, as the Army Corps of Engineers updates 52 “nationwide permits” that allow for a variety of water-related projects. …”Another growing concern is the effect of shellfish operations on spawning habitat for so-called forage fish, considered critical to salmon and other important species”, said Laura Hendricks, executive director of the Coalition to Protect Puget Sound Habitat. Two key species, surf smelt and sand lance, spawn in the intertidal area where shellfish grow and where activities can affect their populations, she said.

Hotly debated national permit for shellfish farms could be passed to Biden administration | Puget Sound Institute

Controversy flares up over proposed policy revisions for state salmon hatcheries -PSI

This is a never ending story, because neither the Tribes, the sports & commercial fisheries, nor the politicians of any stripe are willing to entertain what is needed, which is an elimination of most hatcheries. Why? Because science has proven they don’t work. We have had hatcheries since at least the 1940s and they have not helped produce more wild salmon, nor added significantly to anything but sports fishing and farmed at a huge cost to taxpayers. (The exception to this is to protect almost extinct runs for tribal subsistence which is a valid concern for cultural survival of our Tribes. )We once had monstrous runs of wild (and free) fish for anyone to eat that would simply go out and catch them. They provided for lower income people in times of need. We have squandered that resource for many reasons, and have infected many of them with virus’ transmitted through farmed fish. We have spent vast resources trying to produce significant runs in hatcheries. None of this has worked. The science says to end hatcheries, but the political football of this issue just won’t let it go away. The future looks like we will lose our wild salmon in favor of robo-fish, farmed and produced simply for human and animal consumption. We do this at our peril. Just look at what one virus, picine reovirus (https://raincoastresearch.org/salmon-farm-impacts/viruses/piscine-reovirus/) has done to farmed fish stocks around the world.

So with that preamble, here’s today’s story>

A state policy revision that could boost salmon production at fish hatcheries in Washington state has raised red flags among scientists and environmental groups worried about potential damage to wild salmon runs.


The proposed hatchery policy, under review by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, could derail a 20-year effort to implement critical hatchery reforms, opponents argue. Major concerns revolve around threats to the future of wild salmon populations — including declines in genetic diversity and increasing competition from large numbers of hatchery fish. At the same time, a variety of sport and commercial fishing groups have thrown their support to increased hatchery production, saying that policies to protect wild salmon have reduced fishing opportunities while doing little to save wild salmon. Christopher Dunagan writes. (Puget Sound Institute)

Controversy flares up over proposed policy revisions for state salmon hatcheries

Port of Port Townsend approves grant application for Point Hudson jetty – PDN

As readers of this blog may know, there have been concerns raised about the sea life attached to the old jetty. Some rare species have been found on it. More research will be needed to understand the impact, and the diving community of Jefferson County have weighed in and are following the issue closely.


The Port of Port Townsend commissioners unanimously agreed to resubmit a grant application to the federal Economic Development Administration to assist with reconstruction of the Point Hudson Breakwater jetty. The Economic Development Administration (EDA) initially deferred its decision for the $11.28 million grant the port requested. But now the EDA has said it is open to reconsidering funding the project with about $9.3 million. Zach Jablonski reports. (Peninsula Daily News)

Peninsula Daily News

Port of Port Townsend approves grant application for Point Hudson jetty

Jamestown S’Klallam propose a commercial aquaculture operation at Point Hudson

The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe is proposing a commercial aquaculture operation at Point Hudson. The Tribe is asking the port to allow them to put in a FLUPSY, a device to create an upwelling of water to help young oyster spat.

The meeting with the Port Commissioners to discuss this proposal is online on WEDS. SEPT 23rd at 5:30 PM.

Zoom instructions and agenda are here: https://portofpt.com/event/regular-business-meeting-2-2020-04-22-2020-09-23/

While on the surface this seems benign, it has raised a number of issues that Karen Sullivan, who has a boat in Point Hudson, researched. The following information comes from a letter she wrote the Port Commissioners. The questions are quite intersesting in that they raise issues that many of us might not think to raise. One example is the Wooden Boat Show. Here’s all of the letter. Draw your own conclusions. Zoom in on Wedsnesday if you have comments. Will likely be earlier on the agenda. It’s the first major order of business after the introductory issues.


To:  Port of Port Townsend 

From:  Karen Sullivan and James Heumann, Port tenants 

Date:  September 21, 2020 

Subject: Concerns about proposed commercial aquaculture operations in Point  Hudson Marina 

We are writing to express our concerns about the proposal to establish oyster  aquaculture operations at the Point Hudson Marina. It was surprising to see this potentially controversial item listed so ambiguously on the Port’s agenda for the  September 23 meeting: “Jamestown S’Klallam presentation: FLUPSY and upland use  at Point Hudson.” 

How many of the Port’s constituents would know that a FLUPSY is a Floating  Upweller System, and how many would recognize it as an in-water aquaculture  project? Use of a cute, innocuous-sounding acronym with reference only to upland activity requires readers to know what a FLUPSY is, downplays its potential impacts,  and fails to acknowledge potential public interest. Without public scrutiny, project approval would fail standards of fairness, impartiality, and prevention of conflicts of  interest. The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe said it is working with the Port; now the  Port needs to work with the public.  

Our concerns include environmental, financial, social, procedural and legal  compliance issues. We believe these and other questions and concerns must be fully  answered before the Port can approve such a project. 

1. Size and impact of floats/barges: Currently, an oyster spat-raising operation by  the project proponent exists at the John Wayne Marina. These “floats,” which are  also called barges, are not “small” as is claimed in news accounts. A Google Earth  screen capture shows their placement and size at that marina. They are much larger  than any of the surrounding boats. 

2. Noise/smell: The paddlewheel in the right photo above is the mechanism for  producing upwelling in these barges. We are concerned about levels of noise and/or  smells from operations in close quarters with marina tenants. 

3. Wooden Boat Festival: Point Hudson is a small and very popular harbor  destination, not to mention the home of the Wooden Boat Festival, so the impact of  one or more FLUPSYs on available slip space as well as on the Wooden Boat Festival is likely to be disproportionately large. It also raises more questions: 

Would these barges remain in place during the Wooden Boat Festival? 

If so, how would matters of public safety and liability be handled with the  large crowds we get at the festival? 

What would be the financial and/or other impacts to the festival of lost  berthing space? Have festival organizers been consulted? 

4. Marina/tenant concerns:  

What is the cost-benefit of reducing slip space for boats whose owners  patronize local businesses, for the sake of a commercial tenant whose  operations do not benefit and may even harm the local community?  

What hazard and liability assessments have been done for scenarios in which  a storm breaches the weakened Point Hudson jetty and large waves enter the  marina? What protections are proposed or in place for potential damages? Could the Port be sued for damages by the project operators? 

How often is the spat harvested? It is our understanding that large semi trucks are needed in order to deliver the oyster seed and to transport the  harvested product. What disruptions can be expected to the marina’s docks  and/or parking or walking access? Where does the Port propose to park  these trucks in a marina already squeezed for space?  

It’s our understanding that the tanks are brightly lighted 24/7. How could  this not impact marina tenants and Northwest Maritime Center activities? Residents of Quilcene Bay have complained about glaring night lights from an  oyster operation that have driven herons and eagles from their roosting  trees.  

5. Spat or adult oysters? Another concern is the wording in the Peninsula Daily  News article, “When the oysters are mature enough, they will be relocated to  another facility.” That facility is not named. But because the article also states the  oysters would be sold in the proposed Point Hudson commercial store and bar, it  means they could be raising the oysters here and not relocating them. We are  concerned about the possibility of commercial feed being used if the latter scenario is accurate. Ecosystem effects of raising oysters to maturity, including using  commercial feed in such an enclosed space as Point Hudson harbor, would be far  more impactful. 

6. Consultation with agencies: With the slip-filling size of these semi-permanent  barges comes additional shading of the seabed, something that for dock  construction triggers permits. Being semi-permanent as opposed to the smaller  transient vessels, barge-sized shading impacts to the seabed would be more like  those of docks. Permits generate consultation with state or federal agencies.  Consultation with either one triggers a public process such as an Environmental  Assessment or Environmental Impact Statement under State or Federal  environmental policy laws. Federal funding also triggers this, and according to the  Tribe’s 2017 Report to Tribal Citizens, federal funding was used to purchase FLUPSYs. In cases where the federal nexus is present, the Bureau of Indian Affairs is  obligated to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement or an Environmental  Assessment. A public process with adequate comment periods would be proper and  necessary. 

7. EIS or EA required: Given the wide array of concerns along with the federal  nexus mentioned above, it would appear that this project cannot be said to have no  significant or cumulative impact on the quality of the human environment;  therefore, it would require an Environmental Impact Statement or Environmental  Assessment under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). 

8. Discharge of waste into water: Washing the tanks after spat is harvested would  discharge waste materials into marina waters. This is a “discharge into waters of the  United States,” meaning that whether or not it falls into the category of point- or  nonpoint source pollution, it would trigger the need for a permit and monitoring  under the Clean Water Act.  

9. Historic Preservation conflict: In February 2020, the Port met with  representatives from the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation to discuss  preservation of the historic Point Hudson Marina and its surrounding buildings. The  purpose of a partnership agreement between the two agencies was to “…work  together to maintain Point Hudson’s historic waterfront character.” How do  commercial aquaculture operations fit into such plans for a seaport city with a  National Historic designation that is world-renowned for its traditional maritime  character? Is it worth it for the Port to make such a radical change in community established purposes for Point Hudson? 

10. National Historic Preservation Act issues: In keeping with the  aforementioned concern, there should be a formal consultation under authority of  the National Historic Preservation Act. 

11. Leased building purpose: What is the nature of the proposed leased building  operations beyond an “oyster bar,” and would it include any processing operations and/or storage of equipment, live product, chemicals, hazardous materials, or would  it house non-food-bar related activities? We are concerned that if chemicals are to  be stored on premises and were spilled, that potential environmental non compliance issues could shut down neighboring business such as Sea Marine. 

12. Partners with Cooke Aquaculture: The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe is in  business partnership with Cooke Aquaculture, whose operations have been  problematic to the environment and the subject of state shutdowns and litigation.  We are concerned about the possibility of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe running or  expanding its aquaculture operations at Point Hudson in concert with a company  whose stewardship for the environment has been questionable. 

13. Oyster aquaculture not harmless: The negative effects of oyster aquaculture,  including the raising of seed or spat, are well known. Oyster spat operations pull  nutrients from the water including nitrogen; nutrient removal can have a  detrimental effect on eelgrass beds. Port Townsend uses buoy markers to  discourage anchoring in its eelgrass beds. We are concerned about harm to these  ecologically important eelgrass beds. 

14. Paying bills on time? Conversations with the marina manager at John Wayne  reveal that the Tribe has sometimes delayed payment for moorage as much as six or  more months. This seems like a high risk for little benefit.  

Thank you for your attention to these matters. We write because we care about  maintaining the traditional maritime values of Point Hudson and the health of our  marine environment. We cannot see how the proposed project would be compatible with either. 

Sincerely, 

Karen Sullivan and Jim Heumann

Conservation and Food Safety Groups Winning Over Washington’s Shellfish Industry and Army Corps of Engineers

The Coalition to Protect Puget Sound Habitat and the Center for Food Safety won another step in their case to stop a flawed nation-wide permit for the shellfish industry in Washington’s waters. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the shellfish industry’s attempt to stop a lower court decision from taking effect while the Circuit considers an appeal of a lower court decision.

As discussed in this blog in 2016, this case is one of the most serious attempts to slow the growth of the shellfish (and primarily the geoduck) industry from converting almost all our remaining beaches that can grow geoduck into industrial farms forever.  This reporter reached out to Taylor Shellfish for comment, but they did not get back to me before publication.

What is at stake: NWP 48 – the 2017 “nation-wide permit” granted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to commercial shellfish aquaculture to intensify operations including authorizing “discharges, structures and works” in Washington’s coastal marine habitat. The NWP 48 was issued in 2017, and in just two years, 898 shellfish industry projects impacting 35,800 acres of marine habitats were greenlighted in Washington State.

The Court’s decision in October 2019 was a scathing rebuke of the U.S. Amy Corps Engineers process issuing NWP 48 without “adequate” (or any) scientific review of impacts. The Court found that the U.S. Army Corps had no basis to determine that NWP 48 would have “minimal impact” to marine habitat.

The Court rejected the Corps conclusion that the shellfish industry impacts are “no more than minimal, however, (a) when considered on a landscape rather than a site-by-site scale, (b) because the relevant ecosystems are resilient, and (c) because the impacts are “relatively mild” in comparison “to the disturbances and degradation caused by coastal development, pollution, and other human activities in coastal areas.” The Corps argued that when you make the landscape big enough, the operations would have ‘minimal’ impact, that the waters are so resilient that they would fix themselves, and that there is already pollution by other human activities and these additional impacts are minimal by comparison. The Court bluntly stated that “Noting that a particular environmental resource is degraded is not an excuse or justification for further degradation…The record is devoid of any indication [emphasis added] that the Corps considered regional data, catalogued the species in and characteristics of the aquatic environments in which commercial shellfish aquaculture activities occur, considered the myriad techniques, equipment, and materials used in shellfish aquaculture, attempted to quantify the impacts the permitted activity would likely have on the identified species and characteristics, or evaluated the impacts of the as-yet-unknown regional conditions.”

 

The Court also did not agree with the shellfish industry and the U.S. Corps argument that because the impacts of the various types of waters, habitats, and operations were so disparate across the country, that a nation-wide permit should stand based on allowing local district engineers to evaluate the impacts on a case by case basis. At face value that may seem reasonable and even desirable – that local offices would know more and be able to evaluate impacts and operations: “Faced with incredible diversity, the Corps effectively threw up its hands and turned over impacts analysis to district engineers.” The Court said the agency violated both the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) by its action issuing NWP 48. The Court then could vacate the permit, which would essentially revoke Washington shellfish industry permits that were granted as a result of NWP 48. Interesting, the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, having made extensive efforts to ensure its shellfish operations were carried out in an environmentally sound manner unlike other operations, had also challenged NWP 48 but asked the Court to consider not completely vacating NWP 48.

 

In June 2020, the Court vacated the NWP 48, but stayed the effect of its decision and gave the Corps and the shellfish industry 60 days to appeal to the 9th Circuit. Noting how serious the action to vacate NWP 48 is – affecting the 898 projects in Washington State alone permitted under NWP 48, impacting 35,800 acres of Washington’s marine waters, the Court looked carefully at the district engineers impacts analysis.  In one instance, the Court found that “the Corps’ failure to take a hard look at the environmental impacts of shellfish aquaculture (other than, arguably, the potential impacts to endangered or threatened species under the ESA) was not corrected at the District level. In fact, the District declined to require any mitigation for the expected loss of eelgrass because the Corps permitted, on a nationwide basis, operations affecting submerged aquatic vegetation as long as the area had previously been used for commercial shellfish aquaculture.”  The Corps allowed operations where shellfish activity had occurred at any time in the previous 100 years. The shellfish industry asked that the Court not take any action, and to allow NWP 48 to stay in place and not disrupt business until the Corps could correct its errors. The Corps said it could not correct its errors until 2022, which is the next time when the Corps would issue a new NWP in any course. The Court said no but allowed some activities to continue while the case is under appeal. The shellfish industry tried to stop even the limited effects of the Court’s decision. The 9th Circuit rejected their motion while it considers the appeal. The case is not over – one could ask what has been the role of the Washington Dept. of Ecology? The Court was equally not impressed with Ecology’s role in remedying the defects of NWP 48. The parties have until October 2020 to submit briefs on the appeal.

 

 

 

Wild Fish Conservancy submits lease proposal to take back public waters from the commercial open water net pen industry

Just when I thought that our environmental coalition was bankrupt of ideas and people willing to really fight for the environment, along comes this. The future of environmentalism. Let’s just buy out the economic exploiters destroying these sites. Get behind this. Tell Hilary Franz you want this done. She’s up for re-election and wants your donations. You have the power in you pocket. You will have plenty of wealthy businesses fighting this.


July 15, 2020: After the catastrophic collapse of Cooke Aquaculture’s Cypress Island open water net pen in 2017, the public came together to pass Washington’s landmark law banning nonnative Atlantic salmon net pen aquaculture in Puget Sound after the expiration of Cooke’s existing leases. Taking advantage of a loophole in the law, the company submitted a new proposal in fall 2019 to transition their facilities to native species in order to avoid the phase out of their Puget Sound net pens and to qualify for new leases for all sites.

The continued use of public waters for commercial net pen aquaculture directly undermines the will of the public who have fought tirelessly to protect Puget Sound from this industry and invested significantly in the recovery of wild salmon, steelhead, orcas, and the health of Puget Sound.” says Kurt Beardslee, executive director of the Wild Fish Conservancy. “The expiration of these leases comes less than once in a decade and offers the public a rare opportunity to work together to take back our sound and restore these waters after thirty years of rampant pollution and industrial use.”

In accordance with existing public-use regulations and in concert with obligations to fulfill tribal treaty rights, the campaign’s alternative, the Taking Back Our Sound Restoration Project, seeks to hold these lands in trust for the sole purposes of restoring these industrialized aquatic lands to their natural state for the restoration and conservation of threatened and endangered species, water quality, and the overall health and function of Puget Sound’s ecosystem; and restoring full access to 130 acres of aquatic lands to the public for their benefit, use and enjoyment.

Washington’s laws direct DNR to protect state-owned aquatic lands as a public trust and to strive for uses that ensure environmental protection, encourage direct use, and provide a balance of benefits for all citizens. As Cooke reapplies for each of its expiring or recently terminated leases, DNR will need to compare both applications and proposed uses against the state’s goals and philosophy for managing public lands, creating an unusual competition and leaving DNR with a precedent-setting choice to make—continue to lease these waters for the restoration of Puget Sound and use by all, or the degradation of public waters and profit of a few.

“To date, Commissioner Franz has shown exceptional leadership when it comes to holding Cooke Aquaculture accountable for our environmental laws and protecting Puget Sound from this industry” said Beardslee. “By choosing the Taking Back Our Sound proposal, Commissioner Franz will guarantee the public that these lands, currently degraded and restricted for private profit, will be restored and managed for the public’s benefit and use by all citizens.”

Throughout the coming months, the newly launched Taking Back Our Sound campaign will offer the public opportunities to make their voices heard on this important issue and to call on Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz and DNR to make the Sound choice for Puget Sound and current and future generations.

Taking Back Our Sound is a new Our Sound, Our Salmon campaign to engage the public in a social movement to take back our waters from the commercial open water net pen industry to protect Puget Sound and restore the ecosystem for the use and benefit of all. Our Sound, Our Salmon is facilitated by Wild Fish Conservancy.

Wild Fish Conservancy is a nonprofit conservation ecology organization dedicated to preserving, protecting, and restoring the northwest’s wild fish and the ecosystems they depend on, through science, education, and advocacy.

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For More Information visit: oursound-oursalmon.org/taking-back-our-sound

PDF of cover letter to Commissioner Franz.
PDF of this press release.

Contact:
Kurt Beardslee, Executive Director, Wild Fish Conservancy (206) 310-9301 kurt@wildfishconservancy.org
Emma Helverson, Director of Campaigns, WFC emma@wildfishconservancy.org

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