Sustainable oyster farming, West Marin style – part 2

Click on the words above “Sustainable oyster farming, West Marin style…” to see this post as it was meant to be seen.

March of 2013, I published the image showing over 5000 black plastic oyster spacer tubes I had picked up. The image shows them in a large pile of black plastic on a tarp in front of the turn-off to the DBOC farm. See it here.

Besides meeting Kevin’s parents the day I made that image (that is a post all in itself), a few months later, Kevin found my blog, had a look around, then sent me a note inviting me over to talk about oyster farming trash. I went out to meet him the same day I photographed this Osprey over Drakes Estero, see it here.

The upshot of what he told me for nearly two hours was, “Richard, all this trash you and others are finding is from Charlie Johnson, not DBOC.”

He also showed me the new way they are growing oysters using long white plastic tubes impregnated with bits of oyster shell, they are called French Tubes.

When I saw them, I commented that I thought I’d only ever picked up one in all my days on the local beaches.

He seemed to think they were the silver bullet to all this lost plastic getting into the ocean.

I thanked him for his time and we parted ways, I did not give French Tubes much more thought. That is until I went diving in Drakes Estero. I wanted to see what was going on under the surface with my own eyes.

Kevin is right, I won’t be picking up those long white tubes from all over the beaches of Point Reyes. The reason being, French Tubes sink!

Have a look for yourself. See the invasive tunicate growing all over them.

This is surely one way to keep your litter out of the public eye.


While hiking back from the mouth of the Estero today with a load of trash (over 60 black tubes) along with all the usual human-waste, I came upon 3 people that wanted to know what all the trash was on my back. After explaining my affliction (the inability to walk past garbage on the beach), I briefly explained the oyster situation to them. The mess in the Estero, the mess I keep finding in Tomales Bay etc.

The young woman looked at me and asked “Is it possible to grow oysters and not make a mess of the environment?”

That is a very good question I told her.

I’ve seen little evidence of it so far. The folks at Hog Island do seem to be improving their practice, looking for ways to lose less gear. TBOC has a long way to go to clean up their practice, I see small efforts and much larger issues to be tackled. The others I cannot speak of accurately.

If one reads the position paper put forth by the California Shellfish Initiative, dated 29 Aug. 2013 It states in part (emphasis mine) …

The California Shellfish Initiative (“Initiative”) is a collaborative effort of growers, regulators, NGO’sand scientists to restore and expand California’s shellfish resources, including oysters, mussels,clams, abalone and scallops.

The Initiative seeks to harness the creative talents of shellfish growers, local, state, and federal resource managers and environmental leaders. The Initiative’s goals are to protect and enhance our marine habitats, foster environmental quality, increase jobs, encourage inter-agency coordination and communication, and strengthen coastal economies. A successful Initiative will engage coastal stakeholders in a comprehensive process to grow California’s $25M sustainable shellfish (bivalve) harvest, restore natural shellfish reefs, protect clean water and enhance healthy watersheds.

I’d be happier if what this says were happening…


As always, click on a picture to see it larger

Oyster farm debris littering the bottom of Drakes Estero

Oyster farm debris littering the bottom of Drakes Estero


As always, click on a picture to see it larger

Oyster farm debris littering the bottom of Drakes Estero

Oyster farm debris littering the bottom of Drakes Estero


As always, click on a picture to see it larger

Oyster farm debris littering the bottom of Drakes Estero

Oyster farm debris littering the bottom of Drakes Estero


As always, click on a picture to see it larger

Oyster farm debris littering the bottom of Drakes Estero

Oyster farm debris littering the bottom of Drakes Estero


As always, click on a picture to see it larger

Oyster farm debris littering the bottom of Drakes Estero

Oyster farm debris littering the bottom of Drakes Estero


As always, click on a picture to see it larger

tunicates love oyster racks, oyster bags, oyster tubes. Non-native tunicates!

tunicates love oyster racks, oyster bags, oyster tubes. Non-native tunicates!


As always, click on a picture to see it larger

A local jelly floating by

A local jelly floating by



Snorkling near DBOC oyster racks in Drakes Estero



Snorkling near DBOC oyster racks in Drakes Estero


See the next post in this series here

One thought on “Sustainable oyster farming, West Marin style – part 2

  1. Incredible to see the jelly and the oyster operations from below the surface! Very disappointing to see the white tubes laying on the ocean floor and nearly covered with non-native tunicates.

    All metal erodes and these tubes are hung by metal wire which in salt water will rapidly deteriorate leaving the tubes to sink to the ocean floor. It’s common sense not rocket science.

    Thanks so much for keeping us posted and up to date on what’s happening with our precious bay . . .

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