(1) The sea grant program at the University of Washington shall, consistent with this section, commission a series of scientific research studies that examines the possible effects, including the cumulative effects, of the current prevalent geoduck aquaculture techniques and practices on the natural environment in and around Puget Sound, including the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The sea grant program shall use funding provided from the geoduck aquaculture research account created in RCW 28B.20.476
to review existing literature, directly perform research identified as needed, or to enter into and manage contracts with scientific organizations or institutions to accomplish these results.
(2) Prior to entering into a contract with a scientific organization or institution, the sea grant program must:
(a) Analyze, through peer review, the credibility of the proposed party to the contract, including whether the party has credible experience and knowledge and has access to the facilities necessary to fully execute the research required by the contract; and
(b) Require that all proposed parties to a contract fully disclose any past, present, or planned future personal or professional connections with the shellfish industry or public interest groups.
(3) All research commissioned under this section must be subjected to a rigorous peer review process prior to being accepted and reported by the sea grant program.
(4) In prioritizing and directing research under this section, the sea grant program shall meet with the department of ecology at least annually and rely on guidance submitted by the department of ecology. The department of ecology shall convene the shellfish aquaculture regulatory committee created in section 4, chapter 216, Laws of 2007 as necessary to serve as an oversight committee to formulate the guidance provided to the sea grant program. The objective of the oversight committee, and the resulting guidance provided to the sea grant program, is to ensure that the research required under this section satisfies the planning, permitting, and data management needs of the state, to assist in the prioritization of research given limited funding, and to help identify any research that is beneficial to complete other than what is listed in subsection (5) of this section.
(5) To satisfy the minimum requirements of subsection (1) of this section, the sea grant program shall review all scientific research that is existing or in progress that examines the possible effect of currently prevalent geoduck practices, on the natural environment, and prioritize and conduct new studies as needed, to measure and assess the following:
(a) The environmental effects of structures commonly used in the aquaculture industry to protect juvenile geoducks from predation;
(b) The environmental effects of commercial harvesting of geoducks from intertidal geoduck beds, focusing on current prevalent harvesting techniques, including a review of the recovery rates for benthic communities after harvest;
(c) The extent to which geoducks in standard aquaculture tracts alter the ecological characteristics of overlying waters while the tracts are submerged, including impacts on species diversity, and the abundance of other benthic organisms;
(d) Baseline information regarding naturally existing parasites and diseases in wild and cultured geoducks, including whether and to what extent commercial intertidal geoduck aquaculture practices impact the baseline;
(e) Genetic interactions between cultured and wild geoduck, including measurements of differences between cultured geoducks and wild geoducks in terms of genetics and reproductive status; and
(f) The impact of the use of sterile triploid geoducks and whether triploid animals diminish the genetic interactions between wild and cultured geoducks.
(6) If adequate funding is not made available for the completion of all research required under this section, the sea grant program shall consult with the shellfish aquaculture regulatory committee, via the department of ecology, to prioritize which of the enumerated research projects have the greatest cost/benefit ratio in terms of providing information important for regulatory decisions; however, the study identified in subsection (5)(b) of this section shall receive top priority. The prioritization process may include the addition of any new studies that may be appropriate in addition to, or in place of, studies listed in this section.
(7) When appropriate, all research commissioned under this section must address localized and cumulative effects of geoduck aquaculture.
(8) The sea grant program and the University of Washington are prohibited from retaining greater than fifteen percent of any funding provided to implement this section for administrative overhead or other deductions not directly associated with conducting the research required by this section.
(9) Individual commissioned contracts under this section may address single or multiple components listed for study under this section.
(10) All research commissioned under this section must be completed and the results reported to the appropriate committees of the legislature by December 1, 2013. In addition, the sea grant program shall provide the appropriate committees of the legislature with annual reports updating the status and progress of the ongoing studies that are completed in advance of the 2013 deadline.