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California | North Bay / Marin | U.S. | Environment & Forest Defense

Court Orders Drakes Bay Oyster Company To Comply With Coastal Act
by Environmental Action Committee of West Marin
Thursday Jul 18th, 2013 8:51 AM
Oyster company must remove invasive Manila clams, clean up its marine vomit, and end its plastic pollution of the Point Reyes National Seashore.
The controversial Drakes Bay Oyster Company will be required to remove the invasive Manila clams it planted, manage its invasive “marine vomit” problem that coats its oysters, and finally address the significant amounts of the company’s plastic debris that has polluted beaches all over the Point Reyes National Seashore according to a court ruling yesterday afternoon. Marin County Superior Court Judge Lynn Duryee sided with the California Coastal Commission and ruled that the Drakes Bay Oyster Company must take immediate steps to comply with the 2007 and 2013 Cease and Desist Orders, which mitigate some, but not all, of the company’s ongoing environmental harm to the national park wilderness area.

“Since inception, the Drakes Bay Oyster Company has been operating illegally as if basic regulations that protect our spectacular coastline don’t apply to it,” said Amy Trainer, executive director of the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin. “The court’s ruling supports what the public has known for years: this unsustainable oyster company that pollutes beaches, fosters the spread of invasive species, and causes harbor seal disturbance has no place in a national park wilderness area.”

The court ruling is the latest to reprimand the oyster company for its lack of compliance with coastal protection laws, including its failure to: comply with the production cap established in 2007, remove all the invasive Manila clams and Didemnum vexillum “marine vomit,” clean up its plastic debris pollution, remove several pressure-treated wooden racks that are outside the permit area, and stay out of protected habitat for harbor seals.

The Drakes Bay Oyster Company, which was removed from the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Partner list more than 3 years ago, is being supported by the Koch brothers funded Pacific Legal Foundation and Americans For Prosperity in its quest to commercialize Drakes Estero Wilderness. Yesterday’s court ruling follows on the heels of this week’s news that California River Watch is preparing to sue the oyster company for violating the Clean Water Act.

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by G.C.
Friday Aug 9th, 2013 10:54 PM
Yes, there are plastic tubes in Drake's Bay. Those were introduced by the Johnson Oyster Company, in the 1950s. DBOC is making an active effort to clean those up, and instead of using those tubes, use a more economical approach, where oysters are seeded on ceramic rods. So the number of plastic tubes in the bay is decreasing, though unscrupulous photographers will deceive the unsuspecting public by posting images of the tubes washed up on the shores, for example, after the famous 2011 tsunami struck the West Coast accompanied by 60-70 mph winds. Sadly, few will look into the situation and realize they've been taken in.

What is popularly called "marine vomit" is Didemnum vexillum, a species of colonial tunicate ubiquitous along the west coast, and not attributable to any specific company. They attach to any hard substrate, not specifically oysters. Calling it "marine vomit" is a subtle way to instill feelings of revulsion rather than make a logical argument. Stop calling it that.

The factor that causes the most harbor seal disturbance is the intrusion of hikers and kayakers. As one article claimed, the harbor seal population was reduced by 80 percent... though it was in a specific area of the bay on the other side of the bay, a location frequented by hikers. Whoops, they neglected to mention that.

And, with all due respect, calling the company "unsustainable" is completely unwarranted, not to mention false. Is there such thing as an unsustainable shellfish company? What do oysters require? Oil? Nuclear fuel? Perhaps massive areas of rainforest must be cut down for the oysters to grow on? No, all they require is suspended matter, oxygen, and a substrate to attach to. In this way, they improve water quality by reducing turbidity.

Some people may have an impression of a state-of-the-art facility, with oysters churning out on a conveyor belt, and inevitably a tube leading into the bay pumping out toxic chemicals of some kind. The answer is no. The farm is strikingly plain, in fact: the houses aren't even properly roofed. Why? The government FORBIDS IT. DBOC has applied for those permits, again and again, with no response. They have done nothing to deserve this treatment.