Tag Archives: Totten Inlet

Ethics came into question when rare whale was dying

UPDATE, Dec. 6
Late this afternoon, Cascadia Research posted preliminary results of a necropsy of the Bryde’s whale conducted today. Findings included the following:

  1. “The whale was an immature male measuring 34′ 5” which externally appeared to be a female but which internal examination determined was a male.
  2. “There were at least five significant injuries on the whale, not just the two that were visible when the whale was alive. The most serious was the one visible when the whale was alive and a close examination of this showed that this blow was not only deep but had sheered off the top portion of at least two vertebra. While this injury appeared to be the likely cause of death of the animal, close examination confirmed the sighting reports that this injury had occurred many weeks or months previously.
  3. “The cause of all the major injuries and death of the animal still appears to be one or more vessel strikes.
  4. “The whale was not in great nutritional condition with a fairly thin and not very oily blubber layer.”


The rare 40-foot whale that lingered in Totten Inlet near Shelton apparently died sometime Friday or early Saturday. Up until then, researchers were feeling helpless to assist the dying animal or even put it out of its misery.

A severe injury to the whale in Totten Inlet became apparent last week.
Photo courtesy of Cascadia Research

After its death, the whale was identified as a female Bryde’s whale, an extremely rare species in northern waters, let alone Puget Sound. Curiously, another Bryde’s (pronounced “broo-dess”) whale came into Puget Sound near the beginning of this year and also died in South Puget Sound. Check out the Jan. 19 report by Cascadia Research.

This second Bryde’s whale in Puget Sound was spotted on Nov. 25, although possibly related reports go back to Nov. 13. See Cascadia’s ongoing updates for details. A huge chunk of flesh was missing from the whale’s back, presumably caused by a large boat propeller.

When I talked to Cascadia’s John Calambokidis on Friday, I asked a series of questions about possible medical treatment for the animal and the potential for euthanasia — assuming researchers were convinced that the whale would die anyway. I was a little surprised to learn that John and others — including veterinarians — had already considered and rejected most options. They were feeling pretty helpless to do anything but wait.

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DNR says Taylor Shellfish claims are all wet

Washington Department of Natural Resources has fired back at Taylor Shellfish Farms, making the debate over a disputed trespass more interesting than ever.

Taylor says the state property where the company has been growing shellfish should have been conveyed to private property owners in 1905. Everyone has assumed through the years that the property was in private ownership. Consequently, the company should own the property today, according to the company’s position, which is based on many technical legal arguments.

Not so, says the DNR, which shows in its filing how previous surveys and sales of tidelands indicate that past property owners understood the boundary lines. Taylor’s claims are without merit, according to the agency.

I outlined DNR’s arguments in a story in today’s Kitsap Sun. One may also read the document filed in Thurston County Superior Court (PDF 1.6 mb).

Meanwhile, Taylor has filed a damage claim of $4.5 million related to this case.

It could be an interesting court battle, but I suspect that neither side wants to end up in a courtroom, where spelling out all these arguments could be long and intense. On the other hand, each side may be convinced that it is 100 percent right, which could make a settlement more difficult.

If there is a desire on both sides to settle this case, I suggest that they begin by agreeing to a harvest management plan for the shellfish in the disputed beach. Taylor claims that its damages are continuing, in part because some of the geoducks should be harvested right away. Agreeing on how to manage the shellfish, pending a resolution of the case, could set the stage for further discussions.

Taylor offers evidence to justify shellfish trespass

The Washington Department of Natural Resources and Taylor Shellfish Farms have reached an agreement that could settle trespass damages — or maybe not.

The damages resulted from Taylor’s cultivation of geoducks on state-owned lands and include back lease payments, taxes, interest and compensation for DNR staff time. See my story to be published in tomorrow’s Kitsap Sun.

Taylor officials say they have always believed that the land in question was owned by the company. Apparently, they have convinced DNR officials as well as Commissioner of Public Lands Doug Sutherland, who worked out the details of the settlement agreement (PDF 1.8 mb) as he prepares to leave office.

Some environmental folks and local residents of Totten Inlet don’t believe for a minute that Taylor was an innocent party.

The case has grown more and more complicated. I’m still wading through the details, but my latest story takes a stab at explaining Taylor’s arguments in favor of a verdict of innocence. For more details, download Taylor’s presentation (PDF 2.5 mb) to the state.

I’m not sure at this point if the incoming commissioner of public lands, Peter Goldmark, will jump into this issue, but late this afternoon his spokesman, Aaron Toso, issued this statement:

Commissioner-elect Goldmark has said all along that there needs to be public involvement in this process. By the looks of this agreement, the people of the state are silenced in an attempt to sign a lease during the comment period.

I’ll be interested to see — and report on — the next chapter in this strange controversy.

Tideland boundary questions could be Pandora’s Box

When I first heard that Taylor Shellfish Farms had encroached on state-owned tidelands on Totten Inlet, I began to wonder if this was an isolated case or was happening all over Puget Sound.

After talking to a variety of people, I suspect that shellfish growers and shoreline property owners may be encroaching on state lands and each others’ property in many places. One observer said the problem may be less in some northern areas of Puget Sound, where stakes on the beach are easily seen as demarcation lines.

I started to explore this issue in a story in today’s Kitsap Sun. I assure you it won’t be the last.

We could be opening Pandora’s Box, in which property boundary encroachments are revealed by expensive surveys. That could lead to expensive legal battles over who gets to claim what. It’s a rather chilling prospect, but who knows how much potential revenue the state may be missing.

Meanwhile, the state is not subject to adverse possession laws, yet private property owners are.

Some might say we should leave this alone, but I do not subscribe to the idea that ignorance is bliss.