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

Respect Tomales Bay – Stewardiness defined

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Last week The Tomales Bay Watershed Council hosted another fine “State of the Bay Conference at The Inverness Yacht Club.

I was kindly given a few minutes to present some of my findings from the past 3 years of paddling and cleaning Tomales Bay.

See the slides from my presentation, annotated after the fact at the below link:

Download (PDF, 14.13MB)

The main points of my presentation may be distilled to the following:

the coastodian board of directors are very cool

Steven Colbert knows what truthiness is all about

Download (PDF, 63KB)

Aldo Leopold knew what it means to be an environmental steward

the coastodian has witnessed firsthand in Tomales Bay the epitome of stewardiness

Tomales Bay oyster growers, some of them anyhow, over the past 3 years have moved the needle on the stewardometer.

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The California Fish & Game Commission continues to fail miserably in meeting their responsibility to protect and safeguard the public water bottoms they lease to private entities for private profit. One only need travel the length of Tomales Bay by small boat, from north to south to witness a sad century of dereliction of duty in the form of abandoned oyster farming infrastructure. Infrastructure that continues to pose a serious threat to the health of this jewel we call Tomales Bay.

Invasive plants such as jubata, pampas and ice plant pose a troubling threat to the biodiversity of West Marin. Without a strong, collaborative effort to safely eradicate these unwanted, unwelcome, invasive pests, West Marin will soon look more like Bodega Bay, Stinson Beach, Argentina, South Africa. We love West Marin because of the beautiful and diverse ecosystem. These  invasive plants threaten this beauty and we must act NOW!

Not long ago, one learned of a special beach, fantastic fishing lake/river or magical mushrooming spot from an elder who trusted us with this special knowledge only after we earned their trust.

With the advent of social media and frankly too damn many people, beautiful places like Tomales Bay are being overrun by people who see no difference between the shore of Tomales Bay and the trash-filled Oakland Estuary. These careless visitors venture west, have their fun, then leave a mess in the very place whose beauty brought them on a long journey to visit.

Today myself and a friend participated in an annual litter pickup known as “Litter bugs me”, started by Rigdon Currie 18 years ago. This year the cleanup extended beyond the side of the road into Tomales Bay. Two of us paddled from Chicken Ranch Beach to White House Pool, collecting all manner of trash, including 5 tires, several beach balls, a 5-gallon bucket of broken glass.

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

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

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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Chris plucks one of five tires collected from the cherished waters of Tomales Bay

Chris plucks one of five tires collected from the cherished waters of Tomales Bay

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Salvage kayak "Deep Respect" drifts on a flood tide in southern Tomales Bay

Salvage kayak “Deep Respect” drifts on a flood tide in southern Tomales Bay

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