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

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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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See the next post in this series here

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

  1. Love the humorous contrast to you picking up THEIR trash to her stealing your kayak . . . you should do stand up . . . but this really isn’t all that funny is it . . .

    I continue to hear, “but they’re such nice people!” There are many people I know who are “nice” on the surface. DBOC is not “nice”.

    DBOC is planning to walk away from this operation with a stack of cash and have no intention of being decent human beings and cleaning up the horrendous mess they are leaving behind. It’s shameful and not “nice”.

  2. It looks so cloudy with silt down there that I’m surprised this is oyster habitat. Weird exchange with that manager. Does she ever say that the company she works for will clean up the mess once their “operation” is complete?

    • Hi Al.

      Thanks, as always, for stopping by.

      Oysters for canning in this body of water are grown on tubes or on shells strung on wires, both of which are hung from racks made of pressure-treated lumber above the mud. Single oysters for eating fresh are grown in polyethylene bags that lay on the mud. Both are flushed constantly by strong tidal action. I think the water is particularly cloudy in these shots because we have had a long spell of very hot, calm weather. The increased sunlight likely causing algae to bloom at higher than normal rates.

      The agreement that was signed by both parties leaves the cleanup of all the wooden racks, plastic tubes, live and dead oysters to the National Park Service.

      The Drakes Bay Oyster Company manager said nothing about cleaning up anything other than the live oysters.

  3. We need your eyes, many eyes, to observe, learn and expose harm to the natural environment. I think of naturalist John Burroughs and his reminder to have “sharp eyes.” Thanks for your work.

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