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Taylor Shellfish Caught in Trespass Dispute

US - Washington state's largest shellfish grower is facing a fine that could be as high as $1.3 million for growing geoducks and oysters on state-owned tidelands.

But If Taylor Shellfish Farm can prove its owners and employees did not know that the company was "trespassing" on state land at Totten Inlet, near Olympia, to raise and harvest shellfish, the fine could be reduced to $444,000, according to a letter sent to Taylor Shellfish by Doug Sutherland, elected head of the state Department of Natural Resources.

CapitalPress reports that the lower amount is based on what the state would have received for leasing the land and 11 percent of the wholesale value of the shellfish harvested on the land for the past 3 years.

According to CapitalPress, the $1.3 million fine would represent triple damages for knowingly trespassing on state land. State law does not allow for proceeds to be recovered any further than 3 years back.

State officials say the burden of the proof will be on Taylor Shellfish.

The discovery this summer that Taylor Shellfish was using state-owned tidelands came as the result of complaints from neighboring landowners concerned about the effects of the farms on their views and the possible harmful effects of geoduck production on the environment.