Dr. Alan Trimble is a University of Washington research biologist who works on shellfish issues in Puget Sound and coastal waters. He was commenting in a public venue about a permit controversy in Oysterville and made this comment in a part of his testimony:
“So, my two-cents-worth as a scientist is this: Puget Sound is trashed, and will be forever. So is Chesapeake Bay, so is Willapa Bay: if you look at it from the perspective of what it used to be, it is nothing like it used to be. In case you haven’t noticed, there’s almost nothing left of what it used to be, species-wise. It’s dominated by introduced species that we farm, trees that are planted at ridiculous densities to be harvested to make paper, and a few houses. It is nothing like it used to be. “
Wow, that’s pretty strong language.
When we fly into Seattle or pass by Puget Sound waters we don’t have the immediate experience that the place is “trashed”. But those of us who live on the water know exactly what Dr. Trimble means. The industrial aquaculture industry has upended the natural environment of Puget Sound shorelines and they are indeed “trashed”.
The latest controversy about the bee-killing Imidacloprid pesticide use in Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor is just the tip of the iceberg. The shellfish industry is destroying the natural functions of the tidelands in Puget Sound to grow geoduck clams for export to an Asian luxury market. And they are trashing Puget Sound as they go – disrupting natural species balances, destroying critical habitat for birds and other wildlife, and removing important recreational places that we all love.
How did this happen?
Well, it’s called corruption. It is not the illegal bribery type of corruption, but the legal process of political contributions, legislative strong-arming, paid science, well-healed PR firms that lobby at the local, state and federal levels, free shellfish dinners for environmental organizations, and a bevy of highly paid lawyers. The result is that our own Department of Ecology thought it was just fine to spray the pesticide Imidacloprodid into Willapa Bay until the chefs in Seattle heard about it. The shellfish industry still thinks it is a fine thing, and they are still pushing for it. If you think that issue went away, you are sadly naïve. The Department of Ecology has NOT rescinded their permit to the shellfish industry to spray Imazamox (Raptor) on Willapa Bay.
What has happened in Totten Inlet is the future of Puget Sound. Non-native oysters and other non-native shellfish, proliferation of pest species like tunicates on the shellfish industry muscle rafts, 90+% of all tidelands in Totten Inlet filled with industrial geoducks, clams bags, oysters bags, rebar, thousands of PVC pipes in the tidelands, large canopy nets that trap eagles and preclude other species from their normal feeding ground, and an industry that is considering genetically modified geoducks to counter problems brought by climate change.
So, yes, Puget Sound has been trashed. That was a pretty accurate description of things as they are now. We may not see the more dramatic results of this for some time to come, but make no mistake that Dr. Trimble was not exaggerating.
If you want to see what a geoduck farm actually looks like, you will find some photos here: