Do You Know How To Farm Geoducks?

Geoduck farming grow-out and harvest practices are highly controversial. These practices have created serious conflicts with shoreline property owners; concerns from nongovernmental organization (NGO’s) (e.g., Tacoma Audubon and Sierra Club); and others simply interested in the health of Puget Sound. The shoreline development groups have expressed concerns including lack of regulation, aesthetics, effects on native geoduck populations, impacts on wildlife, farm debris, intensive farming/harvest techniques, agricultural densities of geoducks, carrying capacity of low-flushing inlets, near-shore habitat destruction, over enrichment of sediments from intensive shellfish bio deposits and the permanent conversion of natural ecosystems to intensive commercial agricultural use on the tidelands of Puget Sound. Shoreline developers are particularly concerned because they see shellfish farming as an impediment to continued bulkheading, upland deforestation and septic tank installation. The main objectives of the newly created Puget Sound Partnership include habitat preservation, habitat restoration, preservation of biodiversity and recovery of imperiled species (salmon).

As mandated by 2007 legislation, the Washington State Shellfish Aquaculture Regulatory Committee stakeholder group, including industry, agency and citizen representatives has convened to discuss regulation of this industry. Counties such as Pierce County have also begun to develop regulations covering tideland impacts from geoduck farming, something against which Taylor Shellfish has filed a suit.

Although some marine shoreline owners take issue with the visual impacts, the tubes are actually only visible 2 to 3% of daylight hours over a six-year crop cycle. The reason for the low visibility is because geoduck are farmed in the lower elevations of the beach and are covered by water most of the time.

However, since the lowest tides in the summer are during mid-day, the visual and recreational impact of the tubes is greatest at the very time when the people of Puget Sound are likely to be using the beach. During summer, a citizen group shows that the average percentage of time during daylight hours that the farms are visible is 19% per day and the number of days from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day that farms are visible some portion of the day is 76%. This is calculated for geoducks planted to a +2 tidal level in Thurston County, Washington, one of the counties of South Puget Sound where the geoduck farms are clustered without any environmental siting criteria, public comment or environmental review. When calculated for a +3 tidal elevation (where geoduck are never farmed), the amount of visibility rises to an average per day of 23% of daylight hours and 87% of the days of the summer.

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