Dungeness Geoducks and Environmental Red Herrings: News From Eve's View

Here is my breakdown of a local news story in the Sequim Gazette regarding Taylor Shellfish Farms' permitting process for a 30-acre geoduck farm in Dungeness Bay. This is not an attack on the reporting or reporter; I thought the article was well done as it gave helpful information and insight to differing sides of the issue; it also left me with questions, which is a good thing in my book. Please read the above linked article for yourself to form your own opinion.

The first item that captured my attention was the word 'permitting' because I have come to learn through life experience that while the word is used in everyday vernacular not everyone understands the meaning of the word. However, if you're not from the Northwest the word 'geoduck' may have captured your attention more. Learn what a geoduck is here.

Do you know how permit is defined in an English dictionary? Permit means to allow or to give authorization to do something. Likewise, to get a permit or to be permitted to do something one must first ask permission. Just like a child in school having to ask permission to go to the bathroom (a necessary function for human existence), adults must first get permission a great majority of the time to work, build, and conduct business transactions (necessary functions for human sustainability and progress). It is nothing short of crappy how much permission-seeking is required these days to either be comfortable and/or improve one's position in life, but I digress.

Taylor Shellfish Farms started in the 1890s and is now in its fifth generation. Count that -- one, two, three, four, five -- five generations of a successful business. That being said, I must query: How many businesses these days make it to two or three generations; two or three decades; two or three years? Operating on 11,000 acres of tidelands throughout Washington State and British Columbia while succeeding into its fifth generation are facts which indicate to me that Taylor Shellfish Farms and its management know how to work with the environment in order to operate and sustain a farming culture for years to come into the future.

Being in their fifth generation, they probably also know plenty about the various permitting processes required for business, which in this instance is being done via the Washington State Joint Aquatic Resources Permit Application (JARPA). By clicking the link you can learn for yourself what is required of Taylor Shellfish Farms in the permitting process along with the fees associated. I never cease to be amazed at the amount of requirements on businesses and individuals to be allowed to conduct work. More power to those who jump through one hoop after another in order to succeed; it is not easy.

One issue that may not be easy for the proposed geoduck farm to overcome in the Olympic Peninsula is the environment, as that is the highlighted concern at the bottom of the article as well as the only issue brought up in the comments at the time of my reading.

I understand the need to protect the environment so that it is sustainable for future generations, but am I the only one that picked up on Taylor Shellfish Farms being in its fifth generation? Is it therefore not reasonable for me to deduce that they understand the importance of maintaining land for future generations? Reasonable, indeed. In fact, the article gives a quote from Diani Taylor, a fifth-generation farmer, that alludes to this very concept: Because we can’t farm when the water quality is downgraded, the health of the surrounding ecosystem is important to us. Therefore, in order to be successful and profitable Taylor has to take care of the land and environment for their own good.

Any business that has depended on the land to be successful, and has done it for five generations, is not about to let what they depend on turn to garbage; that makes about as much sense as depreciation. In order to prepare for the environmental challenges, according to the article, Taylor Shellfish Farms hired independent consultants for the express purpose of conducting a 'geoduck aquaculture biological evaluation' so that farming practices can be structured according to the environment's needs. Therefore, it sounds as if Taylor has jumped through the needed environmental hoops. 

Unfortunately, these days, private enterprise often comes in second to the environment due to cries of preserving the land for...drum roll please...future generations. Pardon the juvenile eye roll, but Taylor Shellfish Farms is already doing that by being in business and using the land productively. Am I the only one seeing this? What is everyone else smoking? Not the good stuff apparently.

Granted, I have not spent hours researching Taylor's history of business practices, nor have I spent hours researching what are the proper business practices for such a business, nor have I spent hours researching what is best for Dungeness Bay itself. If someone has done the research and wants to inform me, please leave a comment. However, based on the evidence presented in the article, I can't say that it looks as if the environment will lose out by Taylor Shellfish Farms operating a farm in Dungeness Bay.

Who will lose out though, in my untrained opinion, are the people of Dungeness Bay and the surrounding areas if a geoduck farm is kept from operating a business due to reactionary and questionable environmental concerns. Speaking as a 36-year-old keeper of two cats, I can't say that I am all that concerned about future generations when I don't have any present generations to be concerned about now. Therefore that argument is moot on my meow-filled ears; try another one.

If I sound like an earth hater, all I can say is pardon me that my concerns lie in the here and now, also known as the present (how Zen of me). The 'here' is Clallam County and the 'now' is the Great Recession that Americans have been living through since 2007; I am more interested in the life that is here now being preserved and improved upon via sustainable private enterprise. And while I am no supporter of state-required permitting and licensing, I do acknowledge its overreaching importance in modern-day business. If jumping through the requisite hoops gets Taylor Shellfish Farms another operational farm and carries them into their sixth generation to continue employing people and creating commerce in the Puget Sound, then they have my support.

Granted, I do not know the full ecological ramifications involved nor am I aware of the history of the area beyond what is in the article, so I do give weight to the environmental arguments but only until I find questionable flaws.

For instance, it is pointed out that the idea of Taylor Shellfish Farms even applying for a permit in such a "pristine place" is "fascinating" since "literally millions of dollars" have been put to use in restoration work. Restoration work for what, you may wonder. It appears as though due to a history of shellfish farming in the area the Bay was downgraded by the Washington State Department of Health, but with implemented shellfish protection the bay is once again at a "quality suitable for farming." In fact, the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe who once farmed shellfish in the Bay does not have a problem with Taylor's proposed operation and says it could be beneficial to the ecology; that is a blessing in my view. Therefore, with so much approval by local entities, why not farm the land now that it is suitable and let the joy of taxpaying be shared with new businesses?

Seriously, B. This is what makes no sense to me here in the Olympic Peninsula. With the denial of industrial cannabis applications and now people against geoduck farms, it is as if the people who live here want the joy of paying all the taxes themselves. Really??  Is that what people want; to not let other businesses come and share in the opportunities of the Olympic Peninsula by offering commerce, jobs, tourism, and best of all money to the counties, cities, and state? Granted, I am no supporter of arbitrary taxation, but for the people who believe in such a thing, why not share that belief with others who are willing, and wanting, to step up and do the deed? Gozer knows that is a dirty deed I have no interest in, so I applaud others who do it while grumbling under their breath.

Unfortunately it is not the sarcastic sharing of taxation that folks in the Olympic Peninsula are against. If only that were the case I would be more amused. The real victim under the environmental red herring, as deduced from one statement, is free enterprise. Read the evidence for yourself: We’re not saying don’t do aquaculture, but there needs to be limits to the expansion of industrial aquaculture. Therefore, in other words, do aquaculture but only within the bounds someone else sets. That is what is being said here and that is truly -- not literally -- scary.

Now, pardon me for thinking, but isn't Taylor Shellfish Farms already operating under the requirements of JARPA, which is through the State of Washington and the Federal Government? Are those not limits enough? Pray tell, what more limits should be proposed, specifically? And who should impose and enforce said limits; environmental groups? The article does a thorough job of stating everything that Taylor is doing to work with the environment and community to make the geoduck farm possible, so what is the real reason to stop the operation besides speculated problems that haven't been experienced yet?

For instance, as the article mentions, the potential problem of pollution due to the high winds blowing the geoduck farming plastics around. Considering that the 30-acre farm is being leased on a 350-acre plot of private property, I can't say with certainty the pollution will get to the public since I do not know the specific location. However, if the pollution is a problem and it is not air-quality related (which is harder to maintain), maybe Taylor Shellfish Farms will implement litter control in the area to make sure the "pristine place" that is Dungeness Bay remains that way. How about that, job creation from a private entity. That's what I'm talking about. Those are the solutions needed in these trying times -- private sector jobs created through free market enterprise -- and not reactionary roadblocks.

If you want to block something, humor me and go block the war machine that continues to tax Americans at home while simultaneously leading American soldiers to dismemberment and death overseas.

As far as Dungeness Bay being such a pristine place, that is nothing more than smug talk. Sure, the Bay is nice, but that does not stop it from being what it is at its base level: A public shitter for wildlife and possibly wild humans. Oh my word, I bet wild animals even have sex in the open out there. Is there a permit for that? Seriously, if animals get to use the Bay for a toilet and mating grounds, then can't humans at least use the clean areas to be productive in, to sustain human life and the environment by offering opportunities to the people who live in the area and others who travel vast distances to explore the Pacific Northwest? The idea of placing the future of eelgrass before the needs of humans who are alive right now is environmental worship that I do not follow.

Putting the environment before man's needs begs the question: Why is the environment more important than mankind? And why aren't people who believe that idea exercising their beliefs by killing themselves and their carbon footprint? Wouldn't that save Dungeness Spit and the earth if there were no humans around? After all, it isn't humans continuously fighting that makes the sun rise and set, now, is it; the earth seems to get on just fine without humans. Therefore an earth-first argument is not only moot, it is dead, and anyone who brings up such an argument to me would prove their point best by being dead.

In conclusion I reflectively ponder: When does the environment put humans first? The eruption of Mount St. Helens, was that humans coming first? When people are attacked in the wild by animals, is that humans coming first? Earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, droughts, unexplainable and violent migratory swarms; is that humans coming first? Rain at an outdoor wedding or a game called off due to weather, is that humans coming first? I think not. Therefore, I do not blindly buy into putting the environment first, nor do I buy into the eye-rolling environmental red-herring opposition to Taylor Shellfish Farms expanding into Dungeness Bay. Gag me with a geoduck.

Is there opposition to business in your area due to environmental concerns?
Leave a comment.

Thank you for reading.

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J.B.H. said...

In response to your question, yes. I live in Texas, which contains probably the highest yield shale formation in the country.The industry is lucrative financially to the people involved in the production. Energy companies that practice hydraulic fracturing have not been held accountable for the environment to a high enough standard. It was a great enough concern that the voters in my city passed a ban on fracking.

Eve Penman said...

According to recent headlines, Texas lawmakers have now prohibited all cities in the state from banning hydraulic fracking activity. Pardon me while I laugh....http://evepenman.blogspot.com/2015/05/frackin-texas-wheres-your-democracy-now.html?q=geoducks