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Drakes Bay Oyster Co. Criticized for New Lawsuit Against California Coastal Commission
Oyster Company Makes Baseless Legal Claims in an Attempt to Evade Legal Compliance with the California Coastal Act
The Environmental Action Committee of West Marin today criticized the Drakes Bay Oyster Company for launching a new lawsuit against the California Coastal Commission, saying the corporation will “do anything to avoid playing by the rules.”
“This corporation has made millions of dollars cultivating shellfish in our public waters without any coastal permits, yet thinks the coastal protection rules of California somehow do not apply to it,” said Amy Trainer, executive director of the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin. “After being caught violating harbor seal protections, littering beaches and marine waters with thousands of pieces of its plastic debris, spreading invasive species, and developing without any permits, it chose to sue the Commission rather than comply with coastal protection laws. It’s just plain shameful.”
Trainer said the the Drakes Bay Oyster Company sued the California Coastal Commission on April 8th. In the suit, the company is challenging the Commission’s February 7th issuance of a Cease and Desist Order and Restoration Order for the Company’s years of legal non-compliance with the California Coastal Act.
The Commission unanimously issued the Orders in response to the controversial oyster company’s egregious record of legal non-compliance with the Coastal Act. That included operating its boats in harbor seal protection areas, polluting the marine environment with thousands of pieces of plastic debris, neither asking for nor receiving permission to grow Manila clams (an invasive species) and for a laundry list of unpermitted development.
At the Coastal Commission hearing in February, Commissioner Esther Sanchez stated “I find that this is one of the most egregious violations that has happened, that I’ve seen.” Commissioner Robert Garcia, stated that, “from an ecological point of view, it’s almost like an ecological nightmare what’s happened. It’s bad.”
The Company’s lawsuit claims that the Coastal Commission’s Orders were subject to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The law is clear, however, that regulatory actions by government agencies to protect natural resources or the environment, and enforcement actions, are categorically exempt from CEQA review. The lawsuit also alleges that the Commission has no authority to regulate aquaculture, a claim that ignores well-established law and agreement by the Department of Fish & Wildlife that the Commission does possess that authority.
“After racking up seven years of continuous Coastal Act violations, the company continues to try to evade its legal obligations by filing this baseless lawsuit to stop a State agency from doing its job to protect our coastal resources. This lawsuit is another example that Drakes Bay Oyster Company will do anything to avoid playing by the rules,” said Trainer.
In the 60 days since issuance of the Orders, the Coastal Commission has sent four letters to the Company, but the Company has made no real effort to comply with the Orders. A violation of a cease and desist order or restoration order can result in civil fines up to $6,000 for each day in which the violation persists. Other civil penalties and fines may be applicable as well.