WCMAC Aquaculture Seat
Brian is the owner of Northern Oyster Company in Willapa Bay. His family homesteaded near the shores of Willapa in the 1880’s, and his grandfather started the company in 1934. Brian’s family has been growing clams and oysters on tide flats for three to five generations depending on which side of the family tree you want to climb. He, wife Marilyn, and children Jebadiah, Estella, and Ione now operate the family farm after his parents Ruth and Dick operated it for about 40 years. He represents the aquaculture industry on the WCMAC and is an active member of the Willapa/Grays Harbor Oyster Growers Association, Pacific Coast Shellfish Grower Association, Pacific County Marine Resources Committee, the Pacific Conservation District, and was elected to the Board of the North Beach Water District.
- What does marine spatial planning mean to you?
MSP has the potential to be one of the most significant issues for marine users and conservation in Washington for the next several generations, and is essentially a zoning exercise in the marine area. If policy can be developed to guide the process, MSP has the potential to provide protections for our economy, culture, history, and the environment as we are pressured to allow federal energy and other projects to be placed in our nearshore ocean and coastal estuaries. However, if policy is developed without serious consideration of informed stakeholder input then MSP could be a disaster for coastal Washington communities.
- How did you get involved and why are you involved in the planning process?
In 2009 I became involved in MSP because I felt it was better to be at the table than on the menu. In all seriousness, shellfish growers are likely the 2nd largest private marine land owner in Washington, and have a vested interest in assuring our farms are not damaged through irresponsible marine development. Our farmed lands are proven through science to be an overall benefit to the marine environment, which is a service we provide to the public in general. Our coastal communities also have commercial fishing and other uses that are part of the foundation of our economy, history, and culture that are irreplaceable. My goal is to pursue MSP policy so as to assure existing sustainable uses are protected and preserved as a priority over other any new use. If there are new uses that can be implemented with the interests of coastal communities as the priority and that do not threaten existing uses, then we need good policy to guide development of these new uses. We simply cannot afford to make mistakes with so much at risk, so solid policy must be developed that assures we minimize risk to the uses that have essentially shaped our way of life along coastal Washington.
- What do you hope the WCMAC can accomplish with the Washington Marine Spatial Plan?
The priority is to protect and preserve existing sustainable uses, which has been the input from our communities time and again through a well vetted public process ongoing for about 6 years. If we can keep the focus on accomplishing this, then we can consider what new uses are appropriate as aligned with not degrading or threatening these existing uses, including ecological, recreational, commercial, cultural, and other types of uses. In this way we can protect what has supported our coastal communities for over a century, and at the same time develop strong policy to guide new potential uses.
- Any fun fact that you would like to include?
I recall the first time I heard of an energy investment group from New York trying to lease a massive area in Willapa Bay in about 1999. I looked into it and they had submitted a map of Willapa Bay with circles around large areas of shellfish grower private shellfish beds. This application was being considered by I believe the FERC without consideration to the private property and farms the lease proposal included. This was a real wake up call to me, and I contact Brian Baird who took action to assure there was no reckless action taken. I also recall a time when our local PUD had developed plans to burry cables through our beds in a bay power crossing without any discussion with shellfish growers. These types of actions combined with what appears to be a focus on the SW coast for federal energy projects are issues that made me realize that MSP was a real issue that we needed to get ahead of.