Respect Tomales Bay – Stakeholders meeting to discuss Best Management Practices for aquaculture

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NOTE: the meeting has moved to a bigger room, see here for details.

The public is invited to a meeting hosted by the California Fish and Game Commission and California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Date: 17 July, 2017

Time: 1 pm

Location: Marconi Conference Center, McCargo Room

New location is Buck Hall

Please RSVP by sending an email to aquaculturematters@wildlife.ca.gov

map below

Here are a set of proposed Best Management Practices (BMP), most of which were submitted to the Fish and Game Commission on 8 April, 2015.

Proposed best practices for Tomales Bay Oyster Farmers

These BMP shall be an integral part of each lease. Mandatory practices meant to ensure Tomales Bay and the ocean in general is kept free of lost plastic from aquaculture practices.

 

1. Growers shall uniquely and clearly identify all of their gear with company name and phone number. Possible means of uniquely marking gear include: unique colors of bags, wires, PVC pipes, rope, “branding info into gear”.

2. Growers shall train all employees in concepts of Leave No Trace,
see http://LNT.org, or similar training about environmental stewardship

3. Growers shall continually improve gear in a quest for zero loss of gear.

4. Growers shall replace single use items (zip-ties, copper wires) with more durable items such as stainless halibut clips.

5. Growers shall NOT use floats that are easily degraded by UV, pecked by birds birds in search of food.

6. Growers shall securely tie large groups of non-floating bags together when deploying bags for future securing to anchor lines lines to ensure they don’t drift.

7. Growers shall remove tools each day after working on lease areas, including: fencepost drivers, gloves, water bottles, PVC pipes, wires, ropes.

8. Growers shall promptly (within 60 days) remove culture structures and other items comprising a method that did not work as desired desired or is no longer used.

9. Growers shall patrol lease areas and eastern shore of Tomales Bay on a bi-monthly basis, twice monthly during windy or heavy surf times. Patrols must occur at both high and low tides to ensure gear buried in the mud is collected.

10. Growers shall uniquely and clearly identify all of their boats and barges.
Boats should be clearly identifiable with binoculars from a distance of 1 mile.
Unique color, large letter or number or combinations of these may work.

 

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Respect Tomales Bay – Oyster growers making great strides to lose less gear, clean up what is lost

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With much happiness I am seeing that the oyster growers of Tomales Bay are continuing to take positive steps to reduce the amount of plastic and other debris their operations routinely lose in Tomales Bay. Further, some are taking steps to redesign their gear to better withstand the harsh wind and waves that are a major factor in gear being lost.

The last several times I have had a look around the usual places where loose gear is deposited after storms, I’ve either found no grow-out bags! Or, only a few bags. An outstanding development from my perspective. Hopefully the number of floating bags carried out the mouth of Tomales Bay into open waters is equally small.

That said, we still have lots of oyster farming legacy (OFL) debris to remove from Tomales Bay.

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

44 abandoned grow out bags recovered from NE corner of Tomales Bay.

Storms come from the south in these parts. Poorly secured bags and other gear is generally blown off the leases to the NE corner of the bay, where it festers and sinks into the quicksand-like mud.

I recently spent the better part of a day crawling around the eastern portion of lease M-430-15 recovering 44 vintage bags. Only one of which was leftover from the 1982 flood event that buried thousands of bags belonging to the now defunct International Shellfish Enterprises (ISE). Read more about ISE abandoned debris here. The rest were either from TBOC, or, from unknown growers. Unknown since the growers DO NOT tag their gear to make it easy to identify, yet.

44 abandoned grow out bags along with lumber that was once the support structure for “stanway” culturing tubes. Stanway are still used by one grower to hold many thousands of baby oysters.

One grower is changing the way bags of oysters are attached to iron racks. Instead of using plastic coated copper wires that are untied and dropped in the bay to pollute after one use, rubber ties are now used, which may be re-used, or more easily recovered so as not to litter beautiful Tomales Bay.

Wires collected from the mud after being dropped (the old way)

About 20 pounds of plastic coated copper wire i picked up from under the racks, laying in the mud on lease M-430-17, run by Point Reyes Oyster Company.

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First attempt at a new attach method – these rubber bands proved to be too weak and snapped under pressure from the tide.

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Second attempt at a new attach method – these bands look to be up to the task.

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This is looking more and more like Authentic Stewardship and I thank the growers for their efforts.

 

Growers

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Now is the time for the Fish & Game Commission and Department of Fish & Game to show similar improvements in their methods.

Regulators

Speak up to protect Humboldt Bay from harmful expansion by Coast Seafood

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Coast Seafood has once again applied to expand their shellfish growing operation on Humboldt Bay.

Description of proposed project is here.

Please write the Army Corps of Engineers before 20 April with your request that this expansion be denied.

Be sure to note the Public Notice number of PN-2002-26912N. Highlight the environmental impacts of allowing the expansion rather then simply stating “I am against the expansion.”

These may include: Impact on eel grass, which then impacts brant, salmon, steelhead, coastal cutthroat. If you are a duck hunter, this will certainly impact your ability to navigate on the bay, as well as the number of brant feeding (or not) in the bay. The added plastic that will escape into the ocean is another cause for concern.

Those of us that value the natural diversity supported by an untrampled bay over increased oyster production ask that this expansion be denied.

As in Tomales Bay, shellfish operations in Humboldt Bay harm the eel grass beds that serve an important role for many, many species beyond the non-native oysters, clams and mussels grown for private profit on public lands. Two groups of animals of particular concern are the black brant and a number of salmonids (chinook salmon, coho salmon, steelhead trout and sea-run coastal cutthroat trout. Eel grass provides food for the brant (their main food source) and it provides refugia (cover) for the salmonids when they are young and need a place to hide.

Expanding shellfish operations on another 256 acres would significantly impact a large number of species that rest and feed on Humboldt Bay. Coast already has approximately 300 acres upon which to profit.

Please write L. Kasey Sirkin (l.k.sirkin@usace.army.mil) at the Army Corps of Engineers with your concerns.
The deadline for comments is 20 April, so please do this now.

See what Eureka Resident Susan Penn has to say on this important issue here.

Below are some documents that will educate you on the issues at hand.

Comments on the application from Audubon of California, EarthJustice and Oceana

Download (PDF, 1.45MB)

 

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers comments on this project.

Download (PDF, 165KB)

 

National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) comments on this project.

Download (PDF, 1.42MB)

NPS battles global warming by installing refrigerator on North Beach

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

News Release Date: April 1, 2017
Contact: Amanda Sidebyside, 415-464-5678

Park Service scientists have determined that the ocean is just too darn warm.

To cool things off a bit, they have begun installing refrigeration units along Point Reyes Beaches with doors removed, set to cold.

The first device was installed at North Beach this past week.

As soon as all necessary extension cords have been installed, additional units will be deployed at 50 foot intervals from The Golden Gate north to the southern tower of the Pierce Point – Bodega Bridge and set on cold with the doors removed.

Please do not remove any of the shellfish from the refrigeration units, they are used for calibration purposes.

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Stop Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay Alaska – Yes to Sockeye Salmon – No Pebble Mine

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Please write the EPA now to protect this one of a kind salmon fishery in Alaska.

Tell EPA Administrator Pruitt: Protect American Jobs – Pebble Mine is the Wrong Mine in the Wrong Place

Learn more watching a trailer for The Breach – Feature Documentary Film.

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We must protect wild salmon runs. Farmed salmon is NOT the answer.

The answer is to leave nature be and let her do what she’s done forever.

Learn about Marin’s endangered coho salmon and steelhead here.

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Red male and darker female coho salmon spawning on Lagunitas Creek, 9 Decmber, 2012 ©Richard James

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Respect Tomales Bay – TBOC makes a huge effort, cleaning up legacy trash left by others.

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Ten days ago while walking the mudflats at the mouth of Walker Creek I came across a most interesting find.

A large amount of abandoned oyster racks and grow out bags.

Now, those of you that follow my efforts on Tomales Bay might say, “Richard, what is so interesting about abandoned oyster racks and grow out bags? You have been finding and ranting about that stuff for a few years now…yawn.”

Well, let me tell you what is so interesting about this particular find.

As you may know by now, a series of unpermitted fences meant to redirect the flow of Walker Creek have blighted The Bay for upwards of 15 years. You can read about these structures here, here, here and here for starters.

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Here are two images showing one such fence before removal, as it was on 17 January, 2015.

Now removed Walker Creek diverting pile of plastic and oyster shells.

Now removed Walker Creek diverting pile of plastic and oyster shells.

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Those fences were removed last year before an epic series of storms graced the area with much needed rain, rain that made its way down Walker Creek with a full head of steam. Instead of being shunted to the north by a wall of plastic bags, PVC pipes, concrete pilings, plastic-coated copper wire and zip-ties – all that lovely water was once again allowed to run freely.

The huge volume of water that poured naturally through what had for 15 or more years been a mudflat uncovered an enormous amount of abandoned iron racks and plastic bags (many filled with dead non-native oysters). This debris was left there after the 1982 epic flood that buried much, if not all of the oysters being farmed by International Shellfish Corporation.

Of course I made photographs and recorded Lat/Lon waypoints of this find.

I shared this information with all the current growers (including TBOC, on whose lease this legacy debris had remained hidden all these years), as well as some of the alphabet soup of agencies responsible for caring for the precious coastline – CFGC, CFDW, CCC amongst them.

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Map showing debris and where it was located (click on map for larger image)

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Unable to lift out this mess myself due to an injured back (from lifting non-oyster farming debris out of the bay a month prior), I gave this information to the growers and agencies and hoped that someone would take the ball and run, before the tides once again covered it back up.

The next day, most, if not all of the TBOC crew was onsite pulling this gear out of the mud, piling it along the newly formed channel. How awesome is that!

A big thank you to TBOC for stepping up to remove gear that was on public land which they lease, though not their gear. They recovered 223 bags, some still with dated tags from 1980 on them, as well as many hundreds of pounds of sharp, rusty iron racks.

Let’s hope other growers on the bay follow this lead and remove legacy gear from public land they now lease, littered with gear from years ago. Ideally the agencies tasked with regulating aquaculture on public lands will pitch in to help current growers deal with messes left by those that came before them.

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Debris recovered and removed by TBOC!

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Image showing location where legacy debris was removed by TBOC staff. Red line shows location of former unpermitted creek-deflecting berm.

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Image showing location where legacy debris was removed by TBOC staff. Red line shows location of former unpermitted creek-deflecting berm.

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Removing the vast amount of Oyster Farming Legacy (OFL – rhymes with awful) is not as simple as heading out and picking up this stuff. Some permits are needed in order to do needed cleanup work in the coastal zone. Permits that TBOC had in hand to effect the (almost) complete removal of the last of their creek-deflecting structures.

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What must now happen is for the Fish & Game Commission and Department of Fish & Wildlife to step up and take responsibility for their growers of days gone by (some under their watch, some before their watch began) and do the necessary leg work to secure permits for the removal of the remaining OFL blighting Tomales Bay, as well as make the removal happen. Growing shellfish along the coast is OK by me, as long as it is done truly sustainably, by those practicing Authentic Stewardship.

Now more than ever we need to protect the environment.

Undoing the damages from past practices, as well as incorporating Best Management Proactices (BMPs) into leases and redesigning the cleanup fund escrow system to remove the numerous conflict of interest issues, as well as to give it teeth make good sense. This is especially important in light of the new application to practice aquaculture in Tomales Bay that has been recently submitted.
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Below are images showing some of the debris still left all around Tomales Bay by growers of yesteryear needing to be removed by Authentic Stewards.

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Some of the many dozens of sharp, rusty iron racks littering Tomales Bay, presenting a danger to all who boat there.

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Some of the many dozens of sharp, rusty iron racks littering Tomales Bay, presenting a danger to all who boat there.

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Four telephone-sized treated pilings and ten or so sharp rusty racks, all abandoned in The Bay long ago.

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140+ treated pilings abandoned long ago near Tom’s Point.

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Century old bat-ray fence abandoned long ago, now causing sedimentation in the southern bay as well as providing hard substrate for the invasive oyster drill to colonize upon as well as lay many, many thousands of eggs. These oyster drills prey upon the threatened native Olympia Oyster

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Rescue training on Tomales Bay using helicopter

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Looking down towards the dock at Dillon Beach a few hours ago, saw a large helo hovering.

Closer inspection revealed a gaggle of large jet skis and several “victims” awaiting rescue.

Glad to know they keep their skills honed.

Thank you rescue team!

As always, click on an image for a larger version.
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Water rescue training off Dillon Beach

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Water rescue training off Dillon Beach

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Water rescue training off Dillon Beach

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Water rescue training off Dillon Beach

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Water rescue training off Dillon Beach

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Water rescue training off Dillon Beach

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Water rescue training off Dillon Beach

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Birds of Tomales Bay – Greater Scaup

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Tomales Bay is covered with rafts of ducks lately.

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Venturing north along route 1 one can see numerous groups of diving ducks, huddled, nervous, searching for food.

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If you look closely at the left edge of the image below, you’ll see a pale bird, second from the left with a spray of water kicked up behind it from a bird that just dived under.

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That is a leucitic hen. She lacks pigment in her feathers, hence she is more pale than the rest. Leucism is different than albinism. You can read about that here. And see a wide variety of leucitic animals here.

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Enjoy some more images below. Better yet, head outside and take a gander yourself. There is nothing better than the real thing. As always, click on an image to see a larger version.

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Cows over Tomales

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Mixed weather and a back still on the mend from a bad strain 3 weeks ago means a day of exploration.

Today I drove up a road I’ve driven past hundreds of times and met several cows and a sweet view of the bay.

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Cows over Tomales Bay
©Richard James – coastodian.org

Cows over Tomales Bay
©Richard James – coastodian.org

Cows over Tomales Bay
©Richard James – coastodian.org

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