Save our Tomales Bay – part 11

Click on the words above “Save our Tomales Bay…” to see this post as it was meant to be seen.

It appears I was premature in doling out kudos to the folks at Tomales Bay Oyster Company (TBOC) for picking up after themselves.

The garbage continues to show up on the stretch of shore just south of their retail operation.

I continue to be flummoxed at how a business dependent on nature for profits can be so cavalier in the care of that same environment from whence the bivalve bucks become.

Good news to report though. The Department of Fish & Wildlife has furnished me with maps showing who has a state water bottom lease for aquaculture in Tomales Bay. Equally interesting is who does not have a lease (or sub-lease) to grow shellfish in the saltwater of Tomales Bay

With these maps I hope to be better able to figure out the source of the garbage in Tomales Bay.

I’ve been justly heaping the shame on Tomales Bay Oyster Company for producing the mess I find in the southern end of Tomales Bay. I say justly because the state of the shore I walk reflects the state of the production area and the mudflats directly in front of the operation in The Bay.

In a word, deplorable, describes how it looks.

Armed with these new maps, I see that there are three other Oyster farmers with leases in the southern bay region, Hog Island Oyster Company, Point Reyes Oyster Company and Marin Oyster Company.

In light of this, I’ll be sure to share the responsibility of the continuous mess I find equitably.

The folks at Hog Island contacted me recently. They care deeply about the bay and want to work with me to see how to have regular, thorough clean-ups of the feral plastic their operations introduce into the global ecosystem. They continue to reach out to fellow oysterers for help in recovering the rubbish that regularly is loosed on the water and land by wind and wave. Let’s hope with increased public scrutiny, all growers participate in protecting the Bay from human activity from now on.

More on that later.

Below are images from efforts on 14 and 15 December.


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RJames.map.2013.11.17 Litter
Five weeks ago I recovered 24 bags along with the usual plastic bits, bottles and foam.


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Last week in the same area I collected 29 bags.
Does anyone see a trend here? I’m told these bags cost 2 bucks a piece. Must be good money in oysters to be throwing away so much cash.


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One of a few "work-sites" on The Bay where materials and rubbish are regularly left to the winds and waves.

One of a few “work-sites” on The Bay where materials and rubbish are regularly left to the winds and waves.


A favorite libation of the oyster worker. I find them all over Tomales Bay.

A favorite libation of the oyster worker. I find them all over Tomales Bay.


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Suppliers to the oyster trade of West Marin.  Admiralty Seafood, Drakes Bay Oyster Company, Montana Reach dba Cold Creek Oysters, Northwest Shellfish Company, Schreiber Shellfish Company, Tom Farmer Oyster Company, Tomales Bay Oyster Company -- Are these companies aware that their name is attached to oyster farm debris littering Tomales Bay? -- You betcha!

Suppliers to the oyster trade of West Marin. Admiralty Seafood, Drakes Bay Oyster Company, Montana Reach dba Cold Creek Oysters, Northwest Shellfish Company, Schreiber Shellfish Company, Tom Farmer Oyster Company, Tomales Bay Oyster Company

Are these companies aware that their name is attached to oyster farm debris littering Tomales Bay?

You betcha!


More tags from those Washington oysters - Nisqually Tribe Shellfish Farm, Tom Farmer Oyster Company, Taylor Shellfish Farms, Gold Coast Oyster LLC, Northwest Shellfish Company, Schreiber Shellfish Inc.

More tags from those Washington oysters – Nisqually Tribe Shellfish Farm, Tom Farmer Oyster Company, Taylor Shellfish Farms, Gold Coast Oyster LLC, Northwest Shellfish Company, Schreiber Shellfish Inc.


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Boat loaded down with several hours work cleaning up after local oyster farmers.


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Feral plastic unloaded and turned into a monument to oyster profits over a clean environment.


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Now that the hard work of finding, pulling out of the mud and returning to the source has been done for them, I hope they at least had the decency to come out and get their trash. The low tide prevented me from getting in closer to shore.


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Dozens of bags buried in the mud, abandoned for so long they have become substrate for the ecosystem. Polyethylene is not a sustainable substrate.

Dozens of bags buried in the mud, abandoned for so long they have become substrate for the ecosystem.
Polyethylene is not a sustainable substrate.


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oyster bags, plastic ropes - tools of the oyster trade I find all over the beaches of West Marin. The same material found in the guts of dead whales, dead turtles and dead birds.

oyster bags, plastic ropes – tools of the oyster trade I find all over the beaches of West Marin.
The same material found in the guts of dead whales, dead turtles and dead birds.


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This foam provides buoyancy for the work platforms used by oyster farmers. - I find this stuff all over the place. Some pieces too large to fit in my car, so they are strapped on top. - I've been picking this up from the shores of Drakes Estero for years. - Thankfully that operation will soon close and the source of this toxic blight in those waters will go away. - Ironic that I regularly find dust pans on the beach. Brooms and brushes too.

This foam provides buoyancy for the work platforms used by oyster farmers.

I find this stuff all over the place. Some pieces too large to fit in my car, so they are strapped on top.

I’ve been picking this up from the shores of Drakes Estero for years.

Thankfully that operation will soon close and the source of this toxic blight in those waters will go away.

Ironic that I regularly find dust pans on the beach. Brooms and brushes too.


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Grow-out bag covered with California horn snails. They eat detritus and benthic diatoms. Their preferred diet is benthic diatoms, not the detritus you see here.


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Grow-out bag covered with California horn snails. They eat detritus and benthic diatoms. Their preferred diet is benthic diatoms, not the detritus you see here.


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No oysters in this long abandoned grow-out bag. Just sand and mud.


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No oysters in this long abandoned grow-out bag. Just sand and mud.


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No oysters in this long abandoned grow-out bag. Just sand and mud.


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No oysters in this long abandoned grow-out bag. Just sand and mud.


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No oysters in this long abandoned grow-out bag. Just sand and mud.


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No oysters in this long abandoned grow-out bag. Just sand and mud.

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Next related post may be found here.

Previous related post may be found here.

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

Save our Tomales Bay – part 10

Click on the words above “Save our Tomales Bay…” to see this post as it was meant to be seen.

I decided one day while out picking up after the local oy$ter farmers that I had had enough. Instead of doing their job scouring the bay and beaches, finding, packing out, loading on my kayak, boating out, hauling up to my car, loading in my car and driving to the nearest dumpster the collateral damage created by their profit making enterprise, I was going to make a public monument.

A monument using their trash.

In a very public place so the people that drive out to West Marin to enjoy fresh oy$ters might get a better sense of the true price of their gourmet, locavore, feel-good, low-impact, sustainable, taste-good weekend experience. As i wrote previously (read here), I began to collect the plastic oy$ter farm debris on a small island at the mouth of Walker Creek. Yet, the site was too far from the highway for visitors to see. So I collected more of their trash and built the structure taller.

Monument to oyster profits for a few over a clean environment for all. -- The eight white plastic jugs in the foreground were part of that raft of pallets mentioned below.

Monument to oyster profits for a few over a clean environment for all.

The eight white plastic jugs in the foreground were part of that raft of pallets mentioned below.

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Monument to oyster profits for a few over a clean environment for all.

Monument to oyster profits for a few over a clean environment for all.

I intended to continue this effort with all the plastic I’d found in the area, publish pictures here and invite the oy$ter farmers to come and get it themselves. Well, one weekend I paid a visit to the bakery in Tomales to get some treats on the same weekend of the yearly flea market. I bumped into a friend from Petaluma and explained my plan to her as we visited in the middle of the flea market in Tomales. She looked at me and said “They’re going to kill you!” I shrugged it off and said if they don’t like what I write or my art effort using their trash, they can go pick it up themselves.

Later that morning I again bumped into my friend, we sat on the edge of the market and shot the breeze a while longer. As we talked, I noticed a fellow from Tomales doing his best to hear what we were saying without being noticed. He moved beside us and behind us, always craning his neck to place his ear as close as possible. As I lowered my voice, I watched him move closer. Not long after, my friend and I said goodbye and parted ways.

A week after creating what you see in the two images above, I drove up to make some images from the roadside to see what sort of impact the oy$ter trash might have. Pulling over in the pullout, I grabbed my binoculars and got out to have a look. Scanning left, then right, I could find no monument to oy$ter profits for a few over a clean environment for all. Someone had taken their boat in at high tide, just as I envisioned, hopped ashore and hauled the pile of rubbish forty feet to their boat.

Success!!!

My car did not stink of anaerobic mud for a week. My seats were not freshly streaked with bay mud, eel grass and sand. Now that they know where their trash ends up, and they know how to come and pick it up themselves. It is my hope that they will start to patrol and protect the environment that grows these oy$ter$ and keep it pristine all on their own.

With the winter storms (hopefully) on the way, the real work is yet to be done. Storms knock the bags and other oy$ter items loose. They either get pushed onto local beaches and sensitive wetlands, or worse, pulled out to sea where they are broken down by sunlight and friction, eventually eaten by wildlife. You can be sure I will be out during/after the storms to see what impact there is from oy$ter farming.

Let’s hope that oy$ter farmers will incur the cost of trash removal themselves and not further burden society by filling the public dumpster at Nick’s Cove (Miller Park) with their trash.

That’s right, while unloading the trash from my kayak at Nick’s one day, a Marin County Parks ranger asked me what this trash was about. After explaining my efforts, he shared with me that he regularly sees the oyster crews completely filling the public dumpster. He has asked them again and again not to do it, yet they continue.

Below you can see more images from the Walker Creek area of Tomales Bay.

Thanks Russ.

Great and snowy egrets in flight. Tomales Bay, mouth of Walker Creek.

Great and snowy egrets in flight. Tomales Bay, mouth of Walker Creek.

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Pallets that had been fashioned into a work platform by strapping 8 large plastic jugs underneath them. The elements pushed them ashore and broke up the contraption. Did the people that made this thing come and pick it up? -- No, I spent a couple hours pulling the jugs off it, ferrying them back to a pick-up point. -- As far as I know, this blight still litters the shore of Tomales Bay, two months after I came upon it.

Pallets that had been fashioned into a work platform by strapping 8 large plastic jugs underneath them. The elements pushed them ashore and broke up the contraption. Did the people that made this thing come and pick it up?

No, I spent a couple hours pulling the jugs off it, ferrying them back to a pick-up point.

As far as I know, this blight still litters the shore of Tomales Bay, two months after I came upon it.

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Pallets that had been fashioned into a work platform by strapping 8 large plastic jugs underneath them. The elements pushed them ashore and broke up the contraption. Did the people that made this thing come and pick it up? -- No, I spent a couple hours pulling the jugs off it, ferrying them back to a pick-up point. -- As far as I know, this blight still litters the shore of Tomales Bay, two months after I came upon it.

Pallets that had been fashioned into a work platform by strapping 8 large plastic jugs underneath them. The elements pushed them ashore and broke up the contraption. Did the people that made this thing come and pick it up?

No, I spent a couple hours pulling the jugs off it, ferrying them back to a pick-up point.

As far as I know, this blight still litters the shore of Tomales Bay, two months after I came upon it.

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Human-built structure trying to tell the tide where to go with polyethylene bags fastened to polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipes with nylon cable-ties. Tomales Bay

Human-built structure trying to tell the tide where to go with polyethylene bags fastened to polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipes with nylon cable-ties. Tomales Bay

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Human-built structure trying to tell the tide where to go with polyethylene bags fastened to polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipes with nylon cable-ties. Tomales Bay - The white objects in the background are American white pelicans made of feathers, flesh and bone.

Human-built structure trying to tell the tide where to go with polyethylene bags fastened to polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipes with nylon cable-ties. Tomales Bay

The white objects in the background are American white pelicans made of feathers, flesh and bone.

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Human-built structure trying to tell the tide where to go with polyethylene bags fastened to polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipes with nylon cable-ties. Tomales Bay. The white objects in the background are American white pelicans made of feathers, flesh and bone.

Human-built structure trying to tell the tide where to go with polyethylene bags fastened to polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipes with nylon cable-ties. Tomales Bay. The white objects in the background are American white pelicans made of feathers, flesh and bone.

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Railroad bridge remains in Walker Creek

Railroad bridge remains in Walker Creek

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Cormorants and a great blue heron resting on oyster work barge, Tomales Bay

Cormorants and a great blue heron resting on oyster work barge, Tomales Bay

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Eel grass trapped by cow fence, Tomales Bay

Eel grass trapped by cow fence, Tomales Bay

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Nature held hostage, Tomales Bay

Nature held hostage, Tomales Bay

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Black turnstones foraging atop oyster grow-out bags, Tomales Bay

Black turnstones foraging atop oyster grow-out bags, Tomales Bay

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Great and snowy egrets in flight. Tomales Bay, mouth of Walker Creek.

Great and snowy egrets in flight. Tomales Bay, mouth of Walker Creek.

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Marbled godwits, willets, short-billed dowitchers and a lone great blue heron.

Marbled godwits, willets, short-billed dowitchers and a lone great blue heron.

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Marbled godwits and short-billed dowitchers.

Marbled godwits and short-billed dowitchers.

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Marbled godwits, willets, short-billed dowitchers.

Marbled godwits, willets, short-billed dowitchers.

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Next related post may be found here.

Next related post may be found here.

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