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,
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.
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?
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
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
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
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.
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?'
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.
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 -
yielding hundreds of pounds of high-grade geoducks and a by catch
of any worm or clam that was living in the sand".
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
for geoduck farming.
Then ask yourself, how can so many environmental
strains be allowed by State and County governments when so little
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
We invite you to join us.