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 bag, tube, rope, 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 to show us just how deep their respect is.

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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.

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.

Sustainable Oyster Farming, West Marin Style – part 3 DBOC, Stewards of the land

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

NOTE: Those of you that come back to this page again and again, please consider adding a thoughtful comment. This page is meant to stimulate public discourse on the situation at hand.

July 1st was the first day to go boating on Drakes Estero since the closure to protect Harbor Seals began on March 1st. I had not been out there since February and really wanted to go visit this special place again. On July 6th I took my boat and cameras out to visit the same oyster racks I described in an earlier post here.

I wanted to see if any clean-up had been done since my last visit.

The location of the two oyster racks I visited are just outside the mouth of Home Bay and can be seen in the image below.

Click the image to see a larger version.

Home Bay Oyster Racks Map

The first rack I dove near was nearly half occupied with “french tubes”, long white tubes upon which oysters grow directly. The other half of the rack was partially occupied with the older style “black spacer tubes” [see a pile of over 5000 of these tubes I picked up on Point Reyes Beaches here], and partially devoid of tubes of any kind.

What I saw on the bottom under the french tube area shocked me, it was worse than I imagined. I pulled from the bottom, 136 french tubes, all of which were devoid of oysters, but a fraction of what is down there.

Below are still images and a video of what I saw.

Those tasked with cleaning up the mess of the Drakes Bay Oyster Company have their work cut out for them. Each tube I dug out of the mud clouded the water instantly, reducing visibility to nearly zero. In a little over 3 hours, I collected the 136 tubes from under half of one rack, and I estimate 60-70 tubes from under only 20 lineal feet of the adjacent rack. Even with dive gloves on, my fingers bled again and again from the numerous cuts caused by razor sharp oyster shells.

I was unable to load the other 60-70 tubes on my boat, as they were encrusted with mostly dead oysters. I stacked those on top of the racks above where I found them in the mud.

60-70 “french tubes” left on floor of Drakes Estero by Drakes Bay Oyster Company

60-70 “french tubes” left on floor of Drakes Estero by Drakes Bay Oyster Company


click on image to see larger version

Drakes Bay Oyster Company left these in Drakes Estero

Drakes Bay Oyster Company left these in Drakes Estero


click on image to see larger version

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click on image to see larger version

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


click on image to see larger version

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


click on image to see larger version

Didemnum vexillum. invasive tunicate growing on a suspended oyster growing device called a french tube.

Didemnum vexillum. invasive tunicate growing on a suspended oyster growing device called a french tube.


click on image to see larger version

Didemnum vexillum. invasive tunicate growing on a suspended oyster growing device called a french tube.

Didemnum vexillum. invasive tunicate growing on a suspended oyster growing device called a french tube.

Cert. denied – Looking forward to an Estero without miles of racks, plastic bags

Click on the words above “Cert. denied” to see this entire post.

The supreme court issued their orders this morning.

On the list of cases denied a hearing, Drakes Bay Oyster Company.

Now to get DBOC to clean up the mess they bought/created along with the lease.

Let’s hope they break with what seems to be the tradition of the oyster industry and actually do the right thing and clean up the mess they made while making a profit from the public waters of the State of California.

Read about other local oyster growers and the mess they either created, bought, continue to create or are beginning to clean up, here, here, here and here.

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Save our Tomales Bay – part 17, TBOC gets after it in a big way

Click on the words above “Save our Tomales Bay – part 17, TBOC gets after it in a big way” to see this entire post.

As you may have noticed if you’ve been keeping up with the Series “Save our Tomales Bay…”, I have a big problem with people that trash the planet. Same goes for companies that those people often hide behind in the courts.

Apparently Todd and his crew at Tomales Bay Oyster Company do too!

The images below, recorded on 16 May, show the latest of a few big days where the TBOC staff made time to pick up the mess left behind by a previous oyster farmer whose lease they purchased.

Todd tells me he has removed over 3000 of the PVC pipes you see in the images. He likely has several thousand more to go. He tells me he plans to remove those soon. And I believe him.

Kudos to the TBOC crew for their efforts at being a good steward of the very bay they depend upon for their livelihood. The same bay that hundreds, perhaps thousands of species called home long before humans decided to complicate matters with all our trash.

Oyster farmers in California pay into an escrow account when they lease an area. Those funds were designed to be used to pay for cleanup under certain conditions. The problem as I see it is, that fund is inaccessible due to complicated rules. So, the cleanup that should be taking place, especially when leases change hands, never happens. Witness the messes we see in Tomlaes Bay, Drakes Estero and all along the Marin coast, thanks to Johnson’s oysters [now Drakes Bay Oyster Company].

I plan to work with the Fish & Wildlife Commission to change the language in the lease agreement so that no more of these messes get left behind. More on that later.

If the people pushing the California Shellfish Initiative want to expand oyster farming up and down the coast of California, they best get on board with lease agreements that have teeth, stopping all the finger pointing between present and past lease owners over who made the mess. Better yet, define best practices for all oyster farmers such that the mess does NOT get made in the first place.

Anyone that wants a copy of the current lease agreement in use, and is willing to help modify the language to ensure a clean California coast, send me a note and I’ll send you a copy.

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

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See the first post in this series “Save our Tomales Bay” here.

River otters

Click on the words “River otters” above to see this entire post.

While visiting a favorite area today, I came upon a troop of river otters.

I’ve seen one or two here before, never this many.

How many can you see?

As each one came down to the pool of fresh water, it performed a brief ritualistic dance, relieved itself, then slipped in for a bath. Each successive otter smelled the ejecta of the prior otter before commencing its own dance.

Learn more about river otters here

Enjoy

Hello Portosan, please come pickup the port-o-pottie….

Click the words above “Hello Portosan, please come pickup the port-o-pottie….” to see this entire post.

While cleaning a remote beach south of Stinson today, I came across this discarded port-o-pottie tank.

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I’ll give them a call in the morning to come pick it up.

GPS waypoints and a trail-head should be good enough.

Don’t you think?

UPDATE: After sending the company that owns this garbage a note containing pictures, maps and the exact location, asking for them to come pick it up, (Nicole, how come you never called me back?), I have heard nothing. This huge mess is likely still laying on the beach near Stinson Beach, being ground into fine yellow plastic fish food by the surf and rocks.