Kitsap Sun: Shellfish Settlement Between Tribes, Growers Beginning to Unravel

The Kitsap Sun had a couple of pieces yesterday on the tribal challenge to some filings by private tideland owners. From Chris Dunagan’s report:

Two years ago, Western Washington tribes were given $33 million to settle a 25-year legal battle with commercial shellfish growers. At the time, both the tribes and the growers were widely praised for their cooperation.

But today the conflict continues, with the tribes and the growers unable to iron out details of the settlement — namely which shellfish beaches should be exempt from tribal harvest.

In the latest turn of events, tribes involved in the dispute have rejected nearly half of the 864 tideland parcels that the commercial growers say should be covered by the agreement.

Cory Albright, an attorney for 10 of the 17 tribes, said the settlement agreement was specific about the documentation the growers had to provide as proof that they owned long-term commercial shellfish beds.

“For those parcels for which there were objections, the paperwork just wasn’t there,” he said. “It is important to know that the growers and the tribes are continuing to talk about this… If a court determines that the parcels are not eligible for the settlement, that does not mean that the tribes will ever harvest there.”

A later blog post by Dunagan provides more analysis:

What it comes down to, I believe, was an eagerness on the part of commercial growers to get a settlement using state and federal dollars. Without an agreement, the parties would have faced turmoil as they tried to figure out how the tribes could gain access to commercial beaches and how they would take advantage of “natural” production around cultivated shellfish without destroying the livelihood of an entire industry.