Save our Tomales Bay – Part 29 Littering is against the law

Click on the text above “Save our Tomales Bay – Part 29 Stakeholders meeting recap” to see this entire post

A public meeting to discuss oyster farming’s impact on Tomales Bay happened!

On Thursday 6 August at the Marconi Conference Center in Marshall CA, perhaps thirty people representing many perspectives on oyster farming in Tomales Bay gathered and talked in a civil forum about the debris left by oyster farming in and around Tomales bay over the past 80 years.

A partial listing of who was there:

California Fish & Game Commission [FGC]
California Department of Fish & Wildlife [CDFW]
—Marine Region Coordinator
—Fisheries Division, Shellfish Initiative
—Law Enforcement Division

California Coastal Commission [CCC]
County Health Department

Hog Island Oyster Company
Marin Oyster Company
Point Reyes Oyster Company
Tomales Bay Oyster Company

Numerous local citizens

Media representatives

Sonke Mastrup, Executive Director of the FGC set the ground rules for the meeting.

I gave a presentation explaining what I’ve been finding in the bay and along the shore over the past 2+ years which you can watch below.

A group discussion followed.

Important items that I came home with:

Many agencies have a say over what happens in Tomales Bay. Clearly, not all agencies exercise their voice.

The past few months some growers have been hard at work patrolling the shores and bay, redesigning gear to reduce loss (more on this in a future post) and removing legacy debris from the leases they run. ( I hope this continues indefinitely)

Some growers would like to see the people from the FGC and CDFW come visit Tomales Bay and perform their oversight duties more often and on a regular basis. Something that has NOT been happening for some time, if ever.

Sonke Mastrup (FGC Executive Director) pointed out that littering is against the law.

This was in response to questions about what laws are on the books to explicitly prohibit the growers from leaving the messes they have been leaving for a long time.

At this time, I am offering a bounty of 2 dozen fresh oysters [small or medium] to the first person that can show me proof positive of a Tomales Bay oyster grower being cited for littering in the last 10 years.

I’ve heard Sonke state that littering is against the law in Marshall at this meeting, and back in April at the FGC meeting in Santa Rosa.

Over the past two+ years of picking up the mess left by Tomales Bay growers, I’ve packed out several hundred pounds of grow-out bags, thousands of zip-ties, hundreds of yards of rope and rope scraps, plastic foam, PVC pipes, shards of PVC pipes, retail oyster bags, remnants of retail oyster bags, gloves, tools, parts of tools, lumber and myriad other items left by growers in Tomales Bay.

Not once have I seen a CDFW game warden, or any other “landlord” of state lands on patrol.

A list of loopholes in the leases signed by the growers “renters” and fish & game commission “landlord” was presented. If you care about Tomales Bay and would like to see the agency tasked with protecting your planet from activities the same agency promotes, please write the Executive Director of the Fish & Game Commission and tell him.

Sonke Mastrup, the Executive Director of the California Fish & Game Commission

Mr. Sonke Mastrup
Executive Director, Fish and Game Commission
fgc@fgc.ca.gov
phone 916-653-4899

California Fish and Game Commission P.O. Box 944209, Sacramento, CA 94244-2090

Download (PDF, 349KB)

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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 28 Stakeholders meeting

Click the above text “Save our Tomales Bay – Part 28 Stakeholders meeting” to see this entire post

The following was sent to me on 20 July by the Department of Fish & Wildlife. Presented to you as received (with minor edits for clarity).

I hope you can join us for an informative and productive gathering.

Join agencies, shellfish growers, and resident stakeholders in identifying concerns unique to Tomales Bay shellfish cultivation and discuss solutions, including proposed best management practices and clean-up efforts.

CA Dept Fish & Wildlife and the State Aquaculture Coordinator invite interested stakeholders for a discussion on:

Tomales Bay – Keeping It Free of Debris – Stakeholders Meeting

SAVE THE DATE:

Thur, Aug 6th, 2015 (1pm)

Marconi Conference Center – Pine Lodge

18500 Shoreline Hwy (SR 1)

Marshall, CA

See attached map for directions and parking

please confirm your interest by sending and RSVP to: aquaculturematters@wildlife.ca.gov

Download (PDF, 339KB)

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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 25 Why?

Click the words above “Save our Tomales Bay – Part 25 Why?” to see this entire post.

Over the years I’ve packed thousands of pounds of trash off the beaches of Point Reyes National Seashore and Tomales Bay, one question asked of me often is:

Where does this stuff come from?

Initially, when I found a plastic water bottle labeled “Made in China”, I thought that it had floated from China to make landfall on Pierce Point for me to find and remove.

Then something happened that changed my mind.

During 2010, the craziest year for trash I have ever seen, I cleaned the 2+ mile portion of Point Reyes Beach between North Beach parking lot and South Beach parking lot.

I cleaned it not once, not twice, but three days in a row.

Each day it looked as bad, if not worse than the day before.

On the third day, I found two identical, pristine water bottles from China. By pristine, I mean they looked as if someone had just come from Palace Market, drank the water, then dropped them on the beach.

Brand new.

Not covered with goose-neck barnacles or bryozoan as would a bottle that had spent months or years bobbing around the Pacific Ocean.

Gooseneck barnacle encrusted plastic water bottle - South Beach, 7 June, 2010

Gooseneck barnacle encrusted plastic water bottle – South Beach, 7 June, 2010

These new bottles I’d found hadn’t drifted over from China on their own.

They had likely been tossed overboard by a crew-member of one of the thousands of container ships that bring countless millions of tons of cheap diversions to the world each year.

After contacting the Port of Oakland, I learned the following about container ships visiting Oakland:

       Only 19 hours or less to unload and load all the containers from one enormous ship.
       See here for a time lapse video of the loading of 18,000 containers.

       Less than 20 crew, most from the Philippines.

For a few months I tried to get my “Thirsty” image of 5 large meta-bottles hung in the room where this crew stays during unloading/loading. The woman with whom I spoke at the Port of Oakland really wanted to do this, but her superiors got in the way and in the end I failed in my attempt to educate the crews of these ships to not toss their trash into the sea.

BUT

I learned something that day.

I never really now where the litter I find comes from, I only know where it ends up.

Which is mostly true.

Mostly, because I know where the 6000+ black plastic spacer tubes I have picked up came from (Drakes Estero – oyster farming operations)

I know where the oyster grow-out bags come from.

Abandoned grow-out bags from Tomales Bay Oyster Company returned to them.

Abandoned grow-out bags from Tomales Bay Oyster Company returned to them.

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©Richard James - coastodian.org Abandoned Hog Island Oysters grow-out bags collected adjacent to lease M-430-15 on 22 March, 2015

©Richard James – coastodian.org
Abandoned Hog Island Oysters grow-out bags collected adjacent to lease M-430-15 on 22 March, 2015

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I know where the thousands upon thousands of plastic zip-ties and lengths of plastic coated copper wire and plastic floats pecked by hungry birds that are discarded into Tomales Bay come from.

TBOC oyster bag float, pecked by birds looking for food. Zip-ties, blue foam bits of all sizes and the black plastic cover can be found by the thousands all around Tomales Bay.

TBOC oyster bag float, pecked by birds looking for food.
Zip-ties, blue foam bits of all sizes and the black plastic cover can be found by the thousands all around Tomales Bay.

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Small fraction of the zip-ties (en español: los cinchos) collected from leases of TBOC

Small fraction of the zip-ties (en español: los cinchos) collected from leases of TBOC

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Small fraction of the plastic coated copper wire (en español: cables) collected from leases of TBOC

Small fraction of the plastic coated copper wire (en español: cables) collected from leases of TBOC

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Tiny fraction of the discarded PVC pipes and pipe shards left by TBOC in Tomales Bay

Tiny fraction of the discarded PVC pipes and pipe shards left by TBOC in Tomales Bay

They come from the growers of oysters, clams and mussels in Tomales Bay.

I may not be able to stop the people around the world from polluting our planet.

But I will do all I can in my local area to stop the rampant disregard for the Tomales Bay by local oyster, clam and mussel growers.

And until these growers stop polluting the earth with their trash,

until the Fish & Game Commission takes its responsibility as the “landlord” of these public waters seriously,

I’ll continue to boat the bay and walk the shore, picking up their mess and reporting on it, just as I found it.

If, when I go boating on the bay, all I see are godwits, dowitchers and willets, that is what I’ll share with photos and words.

The true "owners" of Tomales Bay.

The true “owners” of Tomales Bay.

So growers, if you don’t wish to read about your mess, stop making one.


Three leases are coming up for renewal soon. Leases that, as written are pretty loose in terms of holding these companies responsible for the mess they make on a daily basis.

It will end up costing US tax payers more than a few million dollars to clean up the mess left by Johnsons / Drakes Bay Oyster Company in Drakes Estero.

The escrow fund language used in the current leases is over 25 years old. We need a contract worthy of the land it is designed to protect!

If you’d like to see the leases re-written so that growers pay fines if they leave a mess,

If you’d like to see the Fish & Wildlife Department more actively monitor the activities of growers that have made a mess of Tomales Bay for over a hundred years

If you’d like to take an active role in protecting the environment of West Marin

Write Sonke Mastrup, the Executive Director of the California Fish & Game Commission and tell him so.

You can reach him here:

Mr. Sonke Mastrup
Executive Director, Fish and Game Commission
fgc@fgc.ca.gov
phone 916-653-4899

California Fish and Game Commission P.O. Box 944209, Sacramento, CA 94244-2090

Please also ask him when he plans to hold the public meeting in West Marin so that the public can weigh in on how the public lands are being treated (mistreated).

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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.

Sustainable Oyster Farming, DBOC style – Stewardship concluded, thankfully

Please click the words above “Sustainable Oyster Farming, DBOC style ….” to see this entire post.

Happy new year.

1 January came around and I had no choice but to go enjoy the first day of an unimproved Estero.

The first thing to catch one’s eye is the new sign out on SFD….

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Here is an image of this same spot on 24 Feb., 2013
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Driving down to the put-in, the empty parking-lot surprised me, not another boater out enjoying this auspicious new year.

There was a large truck poised to haul out another load of stewardship.

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Unloading my boat, odd specks in the water caught my eye.

Remains of a barge DBOC crushed into pieces while in the Estero so they could remove it. Too bad they left thousands of pieces of foam to further pollute The Estero.

Remains of a barge DBOC crushed into pieces while in the Estero so they could remove it. Too bad they left thousands of pieces of foam to further pollute The Estero.


Wow, it looked as if they had destroyed one of their barges and left the shards of foam as one last gift.

After putting my boat in the water and paddling around to photograph the mess, the truck driver on-shore informed me that they had indeed crushed a barge into pieces so they could lift it out of the water.

He then asked me if I could fetch the large wooden piece of barge still floating in The Estero and bring it to him so he could take care of that. I said sure and paddled over to it, threw a leg over it and paddled to shore dragging what must have weighed a few hundred pounds. He thanked me, as did I him.

After reading the comments made by one of the managers of DBOC at the “wake” held Saturday in Point Reyes Station, “The company, which also raised Manilla clams, has removed every oyster from the water in compliance with the terms of the settlement, according to Ginny Cummings, the farm’s manager.

We have taken anything out and with as much care as we always used in our operations,” Cummings said.”,

I can confirm that the same care was used in dismantling the operation as was used in running it.

As I returned from my short boating excursion, paddling against the strong ebb tide, thousands upon thousands of chunks of foam drifted with the tide, towards the mouth of The Estero. I picked up a few dozen of the larger pieces as I hurried ashore to meet a dear friend who was coming to visit.

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Thankfully, the variety of stewardship practiced by The Drakes Bay Oyster Company, and their workers for the past 30+ years will no longer impact a landscape that needs no improving whatsoever.

The grebes seen below can once again be grebes, unencumbered by the deep respect of DBOC.

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


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apologies for low quality iphone video of the mess



apologies for low quality iphone video of the mess


Horned Grebe

Horned Grebe


Eared Grebe

Eared Grebe

Save our Tomales Bay – part 7

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

Historic-Oyster-Trash

I’ve been boating the waters and walking the shore of Tomales Bay the past few months to see what the impact of oyster farming is on this body of water.

You can see my first post on this topic here.

You can see what I collected over 3 years from the soon to be closed oyster farm on Drakes Estero here.

Until recently I have only visited the area around Tomales Bay Oyster Company in the southern reaches of Tomales Bay.

There was so much debris to collect, it took me a while to get to other areas. And, as I said I would, I finally got up to the Walker Creek area to have a look at how the oyster growers in that area clean up after themselves.

More than one local told me that the folks at Hog Island expended great effort to clean up the mess that is inevitable when one tosses thousands of oyster filled bags into the bay for years at a time. The wind and waves wait for no one. Gear is blown all over the place, some, who knows how much, is sucked out to the open sea for the animals to contend with.

So, after loading my boat and gear onto my car, off I went to the north end of Tomales Bay.

I’ve made three visits to this area, this post will show what I found after visit number two.

This first image is from Google Earth. Each yellow pin shows where I found one or more grow out bags or other oyster debris.

Map of Walker Creek mouth area showing oyster farming debris locations. Click for a larger image.

Map of Walker Creek mouth area showing oyster farming debris locations. Click for a larger image.

The next 60+ images show what I found at each yellow pinned location.

Tired of making many, many trips with my tiny boat to haul this garbage from others back to my car. Even more tired of destroying my car by hauling all of this trash belonging to those making a profit from public lands in my car, I had an idea. I was going to pile this trash where anyone driving by on route 1 could see it.

The last few images of this post will show the beginning of the monument to oyster profits for a few over a clean environment for all.

A future post will go into more details on this monument, and how it was received.

As you peruse these images, ask yourself if what I was told by a long time Hog Island worker and a parent of a Hog Island worker is true. That is, we take better care of the environment than do our colleagues to the south of us.

Did you see the monument to oyster profits for a few over a clean environment for all as you drove by? Please send me a note, or picture you made.

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

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This first pile is what I collected as I drifted down Walker Creek. I hauled it up to the side of route 1 for collection later, where I found the following…

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Someone decided that the right thing to do with this artwork and materials was to toss it over the side of the road. Does anyone recognize that painted fabric?

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Above is what it looks like as I found it. After flipping it over to remove the eel grass camouflage is seen below.

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Above is what it looks like as I found it. After flipping it over to remove the eel grass camouflage is seen below.

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A short video showing a high density of oyster grow out bags abandoned on the shore of Tomales Bay.


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The next few images of heavy machinery are, I was told by a long-time West Marin resident, from oyster farming operations of long-ago.

Leaving a mess seems to run in the DNA of oyster farmers.

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My boat loaded down with as much as I dare take on such a windy day as this one was.

The following images are of the debris where I hauled it to make the monument to oyster profits for a few over a clean environment for all.

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As you can see in this image taken from the side of route 1, even at 200 mm magnification, the monument is too far away to make an impact on even the most unusual of tourists that may make the effort to get out of their car before taking the iconic picture of nature.

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I could move the oyster farming debris closer to the road for ease of viewing, but no, that would make it harder for the oyster farmers to come pick up their trash on their own. Even after doing the heavy lifting and long walking, I figured I needed to make this easy if they were going to clean up after themselves.

Stay tuned for the next exciting installment of “Save our Tomales Bay”, or “How to get the mess makers to clean up after themselves, or better yet, not make a mess in the first place…”

Those of you that made it this far are rewarded with the main reason I visit the wild places of California as often as I can.

This is why we all need to do our utmost to protect the environment that many, many species besides humans call home.

Black Turnstones on the wing. Click for a larger image.

Black Turnstones on the wing. Click for a larger image.

Egrets on the wing. Click for a larger image.

Egrets on the wing. Click for a larger image.

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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.

Waves & foam & kelp & human debris

Click the words above “Waves & kelp & foam…” to see this post how it was meant to be seen.

For those of you not able to visit the coast, here is 3.5 minutes of waves and foam on a remote beach at Point Reyes National Seashore

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Yet another black plastic oyster tube spacer from the Drake Bay Oyster Company. I found 6 this day. I wonder how may were found by pelagic birds and picked up as food?

Yet another black plastic oyster tube spacer from the Drake Bay Oyster Company. I found 6 this day. I wonder how may were found by pelagic birds and picked up as food?

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Drinking water for people with more dollars than sense. Nothing smart about this water.

Drinking water for people with more dollars than sense. Nothing smart about this water.

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Save our Tomales Bay – Part 2

Click on the words “Save our Tomales Bay” above to see the related banner image.

Today and last week I boated across Tomales Bay with the intention of seeing what sort of plastic debris I could find and haul out.

Given my last post about the oyster farming debris I dug out of the shore of Tomales Bay and packed out, I did not think I’d find nearly so much.

How wrong I was.

Last week, a little north of the area of my last visit on the SE shoreline of Tomales Bay, I beached my boat and began to walk the wrack.

I stopped counting oyster grow-out bags after 20.

There were so many, I had to make 3 trips back across after loading my boat as tall as I dare. Digging the heavy bags out of the mud high on the beach was exhausting. Lack of energy and daylight prevented me from making another 3-4 trips that I figured were needed to remove all the bags littering the sand, plants and water.

Today I went back to the same area with photography in mind. I wanted to be sure to record the impact of mariculture on our shared bay. To be honest, I also did not want to feel like I’d been hit by a truck, as I felt the day after 8 hours of picking up trash last week.

In four trips across Tomales Bay in a small sit on top kayak, I hauled out 160 grow out bags, along with lots of other bottles, wrappers, foam etc. There is easily twice that many more in this one area. I wonder if the farm(s) that leave this mess there will begin to clean-up after themselves? If not, I am going to need lots of help.

Commerce makes a profit, consumers enjoy a meal. The earth pays a steep price never to be compensated.

When will humans learn that the unpaid compensation will be recovered one day in the form of a dead planet, no longer able to sustain humans as well as many other life forms?

What follows are images that to me, are proof positive that the decision to let the oyster lease in Drakes Estero expire was the right choice. These same scenes repeated themselves throughout The Estero, though I never personally saw this many bags washed ashore on one boating trip in The Estero. I did see dozens of them that had been pulled out by the tides into Drakes Bay and deposited on Limantour and Drakes Beaches, as well as other nearby beaches. How many escaped unnoticed?

See earlier post about the nearly 6000 PVC pipe spacers I collected from Point Reyes beaches.

All of the images can be clicked on to see a larger image.

160 polyethelene oyster grow out bags left to the elements in Tomales Bay

160 polyethelene oyster grow out bags left to the elements in Tomales Bay

Nudibranch dining on a grow out bag

Nudibranch dining on a grow out bag

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160 polyethelene oyster grow out bags left to the elements in Tomales Bay

160 polyethelene oyster grow out bags left to the elements in Tomales Bay

160 polyethelene oyster grow out bags left to the elements in Tomales Bay

160 polyethelene oyster grow out bags left to the elements in Tomales Bay

Click on image to see a larger version.

Been there so long, pickleweed is growing through it.

Been there so long, pickleweed is growing through it.

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Nudibranch dining on a grow out bag

Nudibranch dining on a grow out bag

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been there so long it is buried

been there so long it is buried

been there so long it is buried

been there so long it is buried

been there so long it is buried

been there so long it is buried

Click on image to see a larger version.

NOT good!

NOT good!

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In West Marin of all places!

Calling this sustainable mariculture would be as crazy as saying The Inverness Garden Club sprayed Roundup® in a public area near Tomales Bay, without permits, telling no one.

 

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Next related post may be found here.

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