Association for the Protection of Hammersley, Eld and Totten Inlets
in South Puget Sound, Washington


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APHETI  is a grass-roots organization of local citizens concerned about the utilization of local marine inlets by big business.  Our inlets have traditionally been used for: family recreation on the beaches, swimming, boating, fishing, and the growing of clams and oysters, the "old fashioned way".  The parties involved in all these activities have co-existed in harmony and balance for over 100 years.

Over the past 10 years, the aquaculture has intensified its growing and harvesting methods affecting the balance of delicate ecosystems, public use of the beaches and the waterways, our natural beauty and perhaps aquaculture itself.

One company, Taylor Resources, Inc., intended to install and operate massive arrays of gigantic floating rafts.  Rafts were buoyed on long-lines to grow mussels for high-end commercial markets, both abroad and domestically. 

Taylor and one other mussel farming company put rafts in Mason County, S. Totten Inlet, and put mussel rafts housing a non-native species in Gallagher Cove, N.Totten Inlet  Taylor wanted to expand the acreage at Gallagher Coe and introduce many more in the sub-tidal area of N. Totten Inlet.  These intensive aquaculture systems raised many questions and APHETI wanted answers from the scientific community.   


In 1996, a group of citizens from Totten, Ed and Hammersley Inlets were very concerned about the proposed development of mussel rafts in the South Puget Sound and their impacts.  The planned stock was of a non-native species of blue mussel, Mytilus galloprovincialis.   

 A number of us visited citizens from Penn Cove, Whidbey Island, who had previously experienced a similar thing, only the rafts offshore to their area housed native mussel stock.  These good people showed us their pictures and files and let us walk their beaches.  While the mussel rafts off-shore were conducting business as usual, the spat from those same rafts dispersed and attached to their once rocky, gravelly beaches, forever changing that ecosystem.  At the time of our visit, their beach was covered with mussels a foot deep, many of them dead and stinking in the hot sun, attracting yellow jackets and emitting a rotting stench that only comes from dead shellfish. 

The residents of Penn Cove reported that the diversity of marine life had changed substantially since intensive mussel farming via rafts began operations.  Their healthy smelt runs disappeared, as had many marine birds and other species.  Their experience was the impetus that led to the formation of the Association for the Protection of Hammersley, Eld and Totten Inlets (APHETI).

APHETI was worried about several issues surrounding introduction and cultivating of a non-native Mediterranean mussel species.

One issue was how this non-native species would reproduce and colonize in our quiet bays.  How could escapement be contained?  Would the gallo mussels hybridize with the native mussel?  Would they colonize in areas where they should not be, such as rocky beaches, floats, buoys, boat bottoms and docks, and even inside fresh-water intake systems of boats.  There is no way to control where mussel spat travels in the water.   Would they displace other species, in addition to the native species?

Secondly, what becomes of the waste products of massive numbers of growing mussels in terms of their shells, feces and pseudofeces, especially in inlets where there is minimal tidal flushing?  What are the affects on the benthic creatures that live on the sea floor beneath the rafts or are impacted by other aquaculture practices?  Will those areas below the rafts become oxygen depleted as some research indicates?  Where are the shells disposed of - in the bays or the landfill?

Thirdly, when massive numbers of a very voracious filter feeder, such as the gallo mussel, share the same quiets bays as other species, is there enough phytoplankton to feed them as well as other marine organisms that require the same size and type of food?  Is this carrying capacity sufficient or will the whole ecosystem collapse because of starvation?

The final issue was the visual and navigation problems the rafts could create

APHETI followed the process set out by the county, and it was ruled in 1999 that Taylor Resources, the company wanting to increase their mussel raft operation, had to provide an Environmental Impact Study (EIS) to answer some of these questions.

This EIS process has taken years and as of June 2006, has still not been completed.  While APHETI  and Thurston County wait for Taylor Resources to complete the EIS, other equally disturbing aquaculture practices have developed.  Early on while we were concentrating on the mussels, shellfish farmers were increasing production of oysters, with an emphasis on single shell oysters, housed in plastic mesh bags and placed directly on the beaches.  Materials used to hold the bags into the sand are rebar spikes, sharp stainless steel clips and metal ropes.   In some areas, there is no place to walk between or among these bags.   Wire net "walls" which are held in place with rebar have been added to minimize water flow over the "product" and between crops.  Netting appears atop clam beds.  And now, massive geoduck plantations are popping up everywhere in the inter-tidal zone, along with 4-6 inch wide PVC pipes and netting to house the juvenile geoduck.

The reader is invited to view the pictures in the next section - modern day aquaculture is not a pretty sight.  We wonder how a healthy balance can be maintained when few independent, objective and rigorous scientific studies have been done by government agencies, prior to allowing such intensive aquaculture activity in Totten, Eld and Hammersley Inlets.

In Totten Inlet, there is very little visible native beach left in the inter-tidal areas.  Beaches in all three inlets hold aquaculture equipment, some planted with a variety of spikes, some loose and floating in the water.  Nets stretch over clam beds in all three inlets, and foraging birds cannot access any of the clams below.   Will beach ecosystems be irreparably damaged by such invasive and concentrated techniques?  Will there be any beach left to product the life necessary to maintain a balanced healthy marine ecosystem?

We understand why County agencies and the US Army Corps of Engineers discourage permits for concrete beach bulkheads - it has a negative impact on finfish habitat.  But don't PVC pipes, water jet hoses and dragging nets and anchor lines from aquaculture rafts also have negative impacts on juvenile fin fish?  Why is there a double standard for the aquaculture industry and the general public?'

Will there be any beach left on which it is safe to walk?  If one needs to get to the water from shore, or at high tide, get from a boat to shore, one risks falling over the stuff in the water, and risks being impaled.  What happened to multi-use of our Puget Sound?  Did lawmakers decide to exclude the inter-tidal shore from the language, so the public is only allowed to use the water and not the beaches?  Multi-use of the Puget Sound waters seems to exclude the average citizen and  encourage multi-use and potential abuse by certain industries.  So many questions that need answering!

Upland property owners are required to keep the waters of Puget Sound clean and in Totten Inlet, WE DO.  That is why so much aquaculture is done here.  The aquaculture demands clean water too, but their interests are self-serving.  At the same time, this aquaculture industry's mantra is that all upland residents have leaky septic systems and that bivalves clean the water.  (The truth is that bivalves do not clean the water, they merely remove phytoplankton from the food column with their siphons, ingest what they want, and expel the rest below in mucous covered pseudofeces.  What they do ingest, is expelled as feces, and lots of it.  And it all looks like silt).   However, the same clean water standard is not required of the aquaculture industry.  They are allowed to pollute the water with man-made materials.  Some inlets do have problems with sewage outfall, leaky septic systems, industrial and fertilizer runoff, but Totten Inlet is not one of them.

Has the science community studied and guaranteed that the netting and PVC pipe used in salt water beaches won't degrade and leach harmful hydrocarbons or other substances into the water?  The netting poses hazards to all wildlife and humans.  The beaches are littered with sharp metal clips and rebar posts abound.  Dredging and geoduck harvesting methods disturb the inter-tidal floor causing at least a temporary increase in turbidity, and potentially a permanent loss of substantial benthic life.  Maybe some creatures will flourish, but others will not.  In a recent Seattle P.I. article, "Cashing in on Geoducks" by Colin McDonald, reporter, he states:  "By the time the three member harvesting crew is done, the 1 1/2 acre beach will have been turned upside down - a moonscape yielding hundreds of pounds of high-grade geoducks and a by catch of any worm or clam that was living in the sand".

Look at the pictures and judge for yourself.  Better yet, during summer low tides of May, June and July, try and walk along the beaches of Totten, Hammersley, and Eld Inlets to see how the inter-tidal shoreline is being degraded  Take a boat ride at low tide and view the incredibly large areas of inter-tidal lands that have been taken over by the aquaculture industry, without any permitting required for geoduck farming.

Then ask yourself, how can so many environmental strains be allowed by State and County governments when so little relevant scientific study has been done to assess potential negative impacts on the whole ecological system?  As time goes by, and more intensive aquaculture takes pace, APHETI will continue asking the hard questions of those entrusted with protecting our public environment.  Visit the Links page to learn more from unbiased sources what APHETI has uncovered that show the downside of intensive aquaculture. 

We invite you to join us.



İAPHETI  2005 - 2013

Please send questions or contact us at apheti@gmail.com