Sustainable Oyster Farming, West Marin Style – You think you’re doing something good….

Click on the words above “Sustainable Oyster Farming, West Marin Style ….” to see this entire post.

Lately I’ve been boating and diving various areas of Drakes Estero in order to get a handle on how enormous of a mess is being left by Drakes Bay Oyster Company. I assure you, it is a disaster out there. For them to suggest that the cleanup cost would be only $10,000 (which they did, more than once), is one mighty big whopper!

After diving under 8 long racks today, over one half mile of lineal rack space, I put up my sail and let the wind drive me back to the put in near the oyster processing facility.

As I pulled my boat out of the water, the manager of DBOC approached me, saying she had a couple questions she’d like to ask me. I said sure.

“We’ve been trying to figure out who is putting the tubes [french tubes] up on top of the racks.”

“That would likely be me.” I replied

“Well, there are live oysters on those tubes, and when you do that, it kills the oysters.”

“The tubes I’ve placed on the racks are from the mud on the bottom of The Estero.”

“We don’t want you to do that. We are still harvesting oysters, and that is like stealing from us.”

“Those oysters have been abandoned on the bottom of The Estero, they are not on the racks. I’m cleaning up the mess out there that you folks refuse to clean up.”

“What you are doing would be like me taking your boat and putting it in my car,” she said to me.

I will digress for a moment to correct her remark, given all that has transpired over the past almost two years.

She thinks that my picking up the mess that DBOC has been leaving in Drakes Estero for the past six and a half years or so, is like her stealing my kayak.

Sure, that is correct, if:

1 I signed a contract with a landlord to lease a place to store my kayak and was told that after 7 years, I could no longer store my kayak there.

2 During the lease, I enlisted the help of all manner of politicians, lobbyists and other groups to put pressure on the landlord to extend my lease.

3 At the end of my lease, the “home-owners association” that my landlord belonged to told me my lease would not be extended.

4 I sued the landlord and HOA. The court hearing the case rejected my claim.

5 I appealed my case to a higher court, they too, rejected my case.

6 I appealed my case to the entire bench of said higher court, they rejected my claim.

7 I appealed my claim to the Supreme Court of the United States, they refused to hear my case.

8 Lots of my buddies sued on my behalf, trying to get my lease to store my kayak extended. That case was tossed out, my buddies were scolded.

9 For the nearly 2 years I was fighting against the lease I signed, I continued to store my kayak, yet did not pay rent. And I earned income renting out my kayak to others.

And then, I ran my kayak through a shredder and left all the pieces scattered about the place I had leased.

Yeah, I can see how my picking up the abandoned mess left by DBOC is just like her stealing my kayak.

Now back to the conclusion of our exchange today…

“I’ll stop placing tubes on top of the racks”, I said.

“Are you going to pick up all the live oysters from off the bottom?” I asked her.

“We are still harvesting oysters and will continue to do so.”

“You didn’t answer my question. Are you going to pick up all the live oysters off the bottom of The Estero?”

“We are going to keep harvesting until they kick us out. After December 31, you can do whatever you want.”

“You still haven’t answered my question. I’m gonna stop placing french tubes on top of the racks, are you going to pick up all the live oysters off the bottom of The Estero?” I asked for a third time.

“Yes we will.”

Great! Then I won’t have to pick them up.

Her last words to me were, “You seem to think you are doing something good out there.”

Later, I thought to myself, “yeah, I’m showing some respect to Drakes Estero, something DBOC is good at talking about, and not so good at actually doing.

Below are images from what I saw today. They represent a fraction of the disaster left by DBOC on the bottom of Drakes Estero.

All images ©Richard James and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

As always, click on an image to see a larger version.


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Commercial fishermen are extremely conscious of their impact

Click on the words above “Commercial fishermen are extremely conscious of their impact” to see this entire post.

The other day while visiting Spud Point at Bodega Bay, I noticed the signs you see below affixed to the railing along the harbor. Their poor condition led me to believe they have been there a long, long time.

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Since 2008, I have personally packed off Point Reyes Beaches:

miles of plastic rope

thousands of crab buoys (one very well known bodega fisherman demanded that I give them back to him, no charge, as they belonged to him. Reminding him that he abandoned them on the beach (they were now mine) and that I hauled them out on my back, I declined his offer. This same fisherman also apologized for his meth-addict brother (his words) who nearly ripped my head off when I offered to sell him back his gear for a fraction of what it cost him to build.)

hundreds of crab bait jars

hundreds of empty bleach bottles – It was only this spring that I learned why I find so many bleach bottles on the beach in the winter. Crab fisherman use pure bleach to dunk their buoys while out at sea to kill the marine growth on them. I witnessed a fisherman at Spud Point hauling dozens of gallons to his boat in a wheel barrow. I asked him about it and he told me he usually uses swimming pool bleach, it is stronger.

A friend of mine lives perhaps a 1/4 mile from the harbor at Bodega and frequently is overcome with the strong smell of bleach.

perhaps 7-8 commercial crab pots (they weigh 70-100 lbs., I leave them above the high water mark now)

It appears the same person who wrote the book on sustainable oyster farming in West Marin (where stewards of the land have deep respect for the waters they ply), also wrote the book on how to be a commercial fisherman who is “extremely conscious”.

Meriam-Webster defines conscious thusly: awake and able to understand what is happening around you.

This past year, California adopted rules used by Washington and Oregon with the hope of avoiding the mad dash to race out and catch every single crab as quickly as possible so nobody else can catch it. The jury is still out on whether it has had the intended effect.

Something needs to be done to reduce the huge and devastating effect wrought on the sea by these greedy, often drug addled fishermen. No doubt fishing is a difficult and dangerous job. When the name of the game is get it all now, any means are used to stay awake for days on end. I’ve been told that sitting in the back of the boat, pulling pots, breathing diesel fumes for hours and hours on end is how it is. If you want to stay awake, you take whatever you need: coffee, speed, meth.

Not all fishermen are greedy, nor drug addicts – likely a small fraction. But, with the amount of garbage left in the sea (who knows how many hundreds, thousands of miles of nylon rope lay on the bottom offshore), and on our local beaches (see below), we need more and stronger enforcement of the laws. We also need fishing regulations designed to reduce the “mad dash to catch it all now.” Perhaps of greatest importance, these conscious commercial fishermen need to self-monitor their ranks. And I don’t mean pulling the other guys’ pots, stealing his crabs, cutting the rope and dumping 25, 50 or 100 pots to the bottom just because he put his pots too close to “your” spot. I do mean not dumping bleach and bleach bottles in the sea, when you change out light bulbs, don’t toss the burned out bulb into the sea. Don’t put your gear where it is likely to be cut by tugs. Don’t leave your abandoned gear all over local beaches (or national seashores), come pick up your mess, and tell your fellow fisherman to not make a mess! Salmon fishermen need to stop shooting seals and sea lions.

This winter, as you enjoy your cracked crab, remember the hard work put in by fishermen, as well as the huge impact on this one and only planet we all call home.

Perhaps crab should be $40/pound, along with mandatory drug testing for all fishermen!

After looking over the images below, you’ll surely agree that “Commercial fishermen have played a very active role in causing lasting environmental damage.”


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Human trash collected from Point Reyes beaches during six visits

Human trash collected from Point Reyes beaches during six visits


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Commercial crab trap tags. Recognize anyone you know? I do.

Commercial crab trap tags. Recognize anyone you know? I do.

Vacation, to leave one’s brain at home

Click the words above “Vacation, to leave one’s brain at home” to see this entire post.

After a summer working in Yosemite Valley many years ago, the word vacation took on new meaning for me.

Watching tourons, as we called them, hacking down living trees to burn, stopping bus-sized RV’s in the middle of the road to get out and gape at a deer, hiking in 4-inch heels to vernal falls – all activities I witnessed again and again.

Imagine dealing with people like this on a daily basis and you can understand how an NPS employee might take on a misanthropic pallor.

Labor day is upon us. And so are the throngs of city dwellers eager for one last glimpse of nature. What a shame it is so many of them are unable to give nature even a sliver of respect.

While standing in line at The Bovine after plucking dozens of bottles and cans out of the dumpsters and cleaning both beaches at Drakes and Limantour, a lycra-clad fellow walked up and dumped a large paper bag FULL of bottles and cans into the trash bin by the door.

Kindly, I said “You know, there is a recycle bin right over there by your bike.”

He stopped, turned, glared and spat at me with a thick German/Austrian accent “Vye dont you mind your own fucking business!”

“Seeing as how I live out here, the state of our planet IS my fucking business. So won’t you put those recyclables in that bin over by your bike.”

He begrudgingly did, telling me “You could have said please.”

Seeing what has been left at the Limantour main trail-head, along with the above exchange, makes me think that humans have no business on this planet.

Happy holidays. Think kind thoughts for the 4 young men caught in the water at the mouth of The Estero, rescue/recovery underway as I write.

As always, click on an image to see a larger version.

Items left at Drakes and Limantour beach over Labor Day Weekend

Items left at Drakes and Limantour beach over Labor Day Weekend


Dog shit, bagged by dog owner, left on beach for the rest of us to enjoy.

Dog shit, bagged by dog owner, left on beach for the rest of us to enjoy.


Dog shit, bagged by dog owner, left on beach for the rest of us to enjoy.

Dog shit, bagged by dog owner, left on beach for the rest of us to enjoy.


Items left at Drakes and Limantour beach over Labor Day Weekend

Items left at Drakes and Limantour beach over Labor Day Weekend


Trash and recycle bins at Limantour. A large dumpster is 80 feet away.

Trash and recycle bins at Limantour. A large dumpster is 80 feet away.


Trash and recycle bins at Limantour. A large dumpster is 80 feet away.

Trash and recycle bins at Limantour. A large dumpster is 80 feet away.

Amazon buys Twitch

Click on “Amazon buys Twitch” above to see this entire post.

On the radio today I heard a story about a company buying another company.

The company being bought is unique.

The company being bought is named Twitch.

Twitch allows people to watch, on their computer, other people playing video games, on their computer.

Amazon is paying about one billion dollars for a company that allows people to waste time watching other people waste time (most of whom are likely shooting make-believe guns at make believe people).


According to the UN, 783 million people world-wide do not have access to clean water.

The same source estimates 2.5 billion people do not have access to adequate sanitation.

Humans are filling the oceans with trillions of pieces of plastic each and every day, killing hundreds of thousands of animals.

Our unconscious behaviors are destroying our planet.


Surely we can do better.

We must.

Or our children will inherit a toxic planet, devoid of diversity.


I promise not to buy or play a single video game next year.

I promise to pick up litter each and every day next year.

I promise to not buy any drinking water packaged in plastic next year.

I promise to try to get 5 people stop buying bottled water forever next year.

What small thing could you do?

Plastic China, a film by Wang Jiuliang

Click the words above, “Plastic China, a film by Wang Jiuliang” to see this entire post.

A little over a month ago I received an email message from a young woman who had seen my image of large meta-bottles on Drakes Beach when she stayed at the Point Reyes Youth Hostel. In her message she explained that a documentary filmmaker and photographer from China would be in the SF Bay Area soon. If I was amenable, and had time, she wondered if I could meet with him.

Last Sunday I met the brother I never knew I had.

Arrangements were made and we thought we might have 3 hours together out in West Marin to look at some of my projects as well as visit areas of interest to Wang.

We, Wang (who speaks little English), his friend Xiao (who speaks English and Mandarin), and myself (whose Mandarin is limited to: thank you, you’re welcome, and check please) spent the entire day together. It was fantastic.

I learned about Wang’s first film, “Beijing, besieged by waste“, see movie trailer here.

Wang is now working on a film titled Plastic China. A film about the harm done to the Chinese people that process the infinite amount of recycled material from the rest of the world, of whom the US is a major contributor.
That ounce of pride we take when we place our plastic bottle, metal can or unwanted electronic waste into the recycle bin is seen in a new light in Wang’s latest film.

See a current trailer for Plastic China here.

Much of the day was spent with me on the other side of the camera being filmed by Wang for his new film. It was more than a little challenging looking towards the camera, but not at the camera. All the while trying to answer questions Wang first asked in Mandarin, then Xiao re-asked in English.

Wang and I hope to continue the dialog we began. Perhaps we can forge a conduit whereby the people of our respective countries gain a greater understanding of each other. Such that we can learn to be kinder to the planet, and to each other.

Both Wang and I are disturbed by what we see the majority of the humans doing to our tiny earth.

Please enjoy these images as you ponder what steps you might be willing to take in order to lighten your burden on our planet…

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Beauty ushers forth from between a rock and a hard place. Lewisia is one of my favorite flowers of the sierra. Found up high where few dare visit.

Beauty ushers forth from between a rock and a hard place. Lewisia is one of my favorite flowers of the sierra. Found up high where few dare visit.

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Whose job is it anyhow….?

Click the words above “Whose job is it anyhow….?” to see this entire post.

Can anyone tell me whose job is it to ensure that the mess left by The Drakes Bay Oyster Company gets cleaned up?

I’ve asked people at the California Coastal Commission, Department of Fish & Wildlife and the National Park Service this very question. Twice!

I’ve not heard a peep from anyone, after nearly two weeks.

It seems important to find out whose job it is. In the past, when oyster leases changed hands in West Marin, or operations shut down, big messes get left – see images below.

All those years profits being made, and every time, the earth gets left holding the [grow-out]bag, [polyethylene]tube, [nylon]rope, [PVC]pipe, zip-tie etc….

As always, click on a picture to see a larger version.

Sustainable oyster farming, West Marin style. Click image to see larger version.

Sustainable oyster farming, West Marin style.
Click image to see larger version.


Above is what Charlie Johnson (and now Kevin Lunny) want to gift to the planet.
No thanks, please clean up YOUR mess.


Oyster farming trash left on the floor of Drakes Estero by Drakes bay Oyster Company

Oyster farming trash left on the floor of Drakes Estero by Drakes bay Oyster Company


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Thousands of feral non-native oysters left growing in Drakes Estero by DBOC


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Some of the hundreds, likely thousands of “french tubes” left to rot on the floor of Drakes Estero by DBOC.


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Some of the hundreds, likely thousands of “french tubes” left to rot on the floor of Drakes Estero by DBOC.

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Some of the hundreds, likely thousands of “french tubes” left to rot on the floor of Drakes Estero by DBOC.

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One string of oysters covered with non-native, invasive tunicate D. vexilium. There are many dozens, possibly hundreds more just like this, left in Drakes Estero by DBOC.


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Above are iron oyster racks, likely from Drew Alden, left in the southern Tomales Bay lease now operated by Todd Friend at TBOC.
No thanks, please clean up YOUR mess.


abandoned plastic trays - Tomales Bay Oyster Company

abandoned plastic trays – Tomales Bay Oyster Company


Above was left when Drew Alden sold his lease to Todd Friend over 5 years ago.
Why is this mess still disgracing Tomales Bay?


abandoned grow out bags covered with marine growth - Tomales Bay Oyster Company

abandoned grow out bags covered with marine growth – Tomales Bay Oyster Company


Above was left when Drew Alden sold his lease to Todd Friend over 5 years ago.
Why is this mess still disgracing Tomales Bay?

Location -  38.128490° N   -122.864172° W   Datum WGS84

Location – 38.128490° N -122.864172° W Datum WGS84


Not sure who so generously left this mess in Tomales Bay.
No thanks, please clean up YOUR mess.


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On the eastern shore of Tomales Bay, north of Walker Creek you’ll find this mess from oyster operations begun and abruptly ended decades ago.
Why is this mess still disgracing Tomales Bay?

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On the eastern shore of Tomales Bay, north of Walker Creek you’ll find this mess from oyster operations begun and abruptly ended decades ago.
Why is this mess still disgracing Tomales Bay?

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On the eastern shore of Tomales Bay, north of Walker Creek you’ll find this mess from oyster operations begun and abruptly ended decades ago.
Why is this mess still disgracing Tomales Bay?

If people want to make an honest buck farming oysters, that is fine by me. It is hard work, no question about that. But, taking shortcuts, short-sighted business practices and just plain arrogance has been trashing the planet.

The disgraceful disaster scattered on the bottom of the thousand acre lease of precious Drakes Estero is at zero to ten feet below sea level usually.

We now have an opportunity to see the stewards of the land, with a deep respect for the waters of Drakes Estero show us just how deep their respect is.







Sustainable Oyster Farming, West Marin Style – part 5 DBOC trash in Drakes Estero, director’s cut

Click the words above, “Sustainable Oyster Farming, West Marin Style…” to see this entire post.

Due to popular demand, a shorter version of the staggeringly popular seven minute film showing the garbage left behind by the Drakes Bay Oyster Company has been released.

See below for the distilled three minute version.

Be sure to click the rectangle icon in lower right of video window to fill your screen with the image.

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Stay outta the ditch…

Click the words above “Stay outta the ditch…” to see this entire post.

Stay outta the ditch is something I often say to cyclists.

Being a cyclist, and having crashed a time or two…..

I try to hug the white line when riding the narrow roads of West Marin.

(I do wish the hoards that invade us each weekend would do the same)

This poor woman, according to the driver behind her as she moved
to a less pleasant part of this fine day, was weaving in and out of the ditch.

The ditch got her.

15 minutes or so after they started peeling this car like a tuna can, she stood up and walked over to the gurney.

As always, click on an image to see a larger version. All images copyright ©Richard James Photography, no use without explicit, written permission. Linking to images with attribution allowed.

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Pelican feeding frenzy over Bolinas Lagoon

Click on the words above, “Pelican feeding frenzy over Bolinas Lagoon” to see this entire post.

A few months ago, an uncommon event unfolded before my eyes as I drove to my friend Tess’ house for dinner in Stinson Beach.

Hundreds of Brown Pelicans were swarming, diving, squawking as they gorged themselves on a large school of fish below.

Pelicans are an amazing bird to watch. Whether in flight or standing on a rock, they possess a prehistoric, erudite quality that I am drawn to. Seeing 20-30 of them in a long string flying inches over the waves always stops me in my tracks.

You can see other images of Pelicans here

Enjoy!

Click on the rectangle in the lower right corner of the video window to fill you screen.

Sustainable Oyster Farming, West Marin Style – part 4 DBOC – Stewardship examined

Click on the words above “Sustainable Oyster Farming, West Marin Style…” to see this entire post

Sunday the 20th found me out on Drakes Estero on a superb day to enjoy this wilderness jewel. A light south headwind on my paddle out made for a light tailwind, coupled with a strong flood tide to push me back after a day diving to see what lay beneath the surface.

Having replaced my polarized glasses I’d broken two years ago, this was my first time boating on The Estero with the ability to easily see underwater. An amazing world of kelp, eal-grass, nudibranchs, bat rays, leopard sharks, fish and crabs all went about their business of eating, trying not to be eaten and reproducing.

Sadly, after years of use by a “Sustainable, respectful of the land oyster farm”, the Estero floor is now littered with abandoned plastic, oyster shells and lumber treated with toxic chemicals.

Thankfully, Drakes Bay Oyster Company has a “deep respect for the land and waters of the Estero ecostystem”.

Just imagine what the place would look like if some company without such strong morals had been running the show…..

Below is a 7 minute view of Drakes Estero, below the surface. It is High Definition, so click the small rectangle in the lower right corner of the video window to fill your screen, especially nice when the large shark comes into view.

While not the best footage (drifting with the tide holding a camera on a pole), it does give an accurate representation of what, sadly, is found under many of the oyster racks encroaching on The Estero.

As my camera skills develop, I plan to venture out to the northern part of Tomales Bay and share equally disturbing views of the side-effects from years of resource extraction in those waters.