Mollusk farming on a coastal zone of Washington. (Photo: Stock File)
Environmentalists sue Washington state to stop shellfish aquaculture
Saturday, April 14, 2018, 01:30 (GMT + 9)
A conservation group coalition has sued the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) in an effort to demand it protect coastal shorelines by stopping the exemption for industrial shellfish aquaculture.
The coalition, Protect Zangle Cove, warns that WDFW has exempted commercial aquaculture from this statutory requirement for many years, meaning aquaculture projects go forward without these crucial environmental safeguards.
The lawsuit filed in Thurston County Superior Court contends this exemption has no legal basis and asks the court to direct WDFW to apply the hydraulic project approval law consistently to shellfish aquaculture projects.
The suit also asks the court to halt development of a geoduck farm planned for Zangle Cove, a near pristine estuary in South Puget Sound, until it receives a hydraulic project approval permit.
"With threatened Southern Resident killer whales and endangered native salmon at extreme risk, our state agencies have failed to implement the environmental protections that are critical to the broad scale ecological recovery of Puget Sound," pointed out Patrick Townsend, president of Protect Zangle Cove.
In his view, the action taken is one important step toward restoring sanity to the recovery process, adding the need to protect the tidelands from further loss of ecological function to avoid the loss of iconic species.
For her part, Laura Hendricks, director of the Coalition to Protect Puget Sound Habitat, emphasizes that the lawsuit only asks the state to apply the law consistently.
"There is a double standard that exempts commercial shellfish aquaculture from the state HPA permitting system, even though these operations pose a severe threat to our fragile coastal habitats," Hendricks stated.
Commercial shellfish aquaculture is in the midst of dramatic expansion in Washington. These factory-farm like facilities already take up as many as 50,000 shoreline acres, or as much as one-quarter of all Washington tidelands. Significant expansion is planned in the immediate future, focusing largely on geoducks raised to sell in the Asian luxury market.