Tomales Bay Disrespected – PROC still making a mess of Tomales Bay, FGC poised to renew leases anyhow???

Point Reyes Oyster Company (PROC) has been making a mess of Tomales Bay for decades. While long overdue, this past February the California Fish & Game Commission properly denied PROC’s 15-year lease renewal request on two leases to grow oysters & clams in Tomales Bay.

The leases were extended for up to twelve months to give PROC time to clean up the unacceptable mess of marine debris they’d made and show that they could raise oysters & clams in a responsible manner with a modicum of stewardship for our public lands.

When the agenda for the June meeting of the Fish & Game Commission arrived in my in-box last week, I was angry and disheartened because I knew that the substantial marine debris issues that I and others had raised previously have still not been addressed. This is very troubling, and that is why I plan to travel to Bakersfield next week to urge the Commission to continue to delay PROC’s 15-year lease renewal request until the company has demonstrated for a minimum of six (6) continuous months that it can be a responsible oyster operator on our public lands in Tomales Bay.

If you care about the health of our bay and the planet, please write California Fish & Game Commission at fgc@fgc.ca.gov and request that they NOT renew leases for Point Reyes Oyster Company until PROC proves it is a responsible grower and does everything possible to minimize loss of gear AND regularly patrols the bay and picks up the gear they do lose. I do not have a problem with our State leasing public water bottom lands for oyster growing so long as the oyster operators treat these leases as the privilege that they are, and exercise a stewardship ethic for Tomales Bay that is also part of the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, and don’t add significant amounts of marine debris to our ecosystem. Once PROC has actually demonstrated that it can be a responsible oyster operator for six months, I would be happy to support its longer lease renewal. However, I cannot support the company receiving a lucrative lease on our public lands at this time given their very poor care of Tomales Bay.

Here is text from the “outcomes” section of February’s FGC meeting during which the leases were NOT renewed:

 
11. Point Reyes Oyster Company, Inc. State water bottom leases for aquaculture

(A) Approve request to renew State Water Bottom Lease No. M-430-13
(Pursuant to Section 15406, Fish and Game Code)

(B) Approve request to renew State Water Bottom Lease No. M-430-17
(Pursuant to Section 15406, Fish and Game Code)

Received public comment.

The Commission approved a one-year extension of state water bottom lease Nos.
M-430-13 and M-430-17 under existing terms and conditions in lieu of lease
renewal, to allow the California Department of Fish and Wildlife Marine Region to
evaluate terms of a lease renewal, use of best management practices, and any other details that would be important for this lease. The Commission will consider renewal once lease practices and terms are clarified and resolved.

Ayes: E. Sklar, J. Hostler-Carmesin, A. Williams

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Have a look at the images below and decide for yourself if PROC has made any significant progress in reducing the amount of plastic, plastic coated copper wire, rubber and other gear abandoned in Tomales Bay as they profit from the the very same waters.

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Here we see a small portion of lease 17 near the mouth of Walker Creek where PROC appears to be growing oysters with the bag & rack method.

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This image was recorded on March 14, 2015 Notice the bags strewn all over the bay floor.
©RJames.IMG_0310

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Another image from March 14, 2015
©RJames.IMG_0311

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Shortly after their lease renewals were denied, PROC workers came out to collect loose gear and straighten up the same area. The workers told me to come out in two weeks and I would not recognize the place it would be so clean.
©RJames.IMG_3298

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©RJames.IMG_3297

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Two main things were done during this cleanup. 1) PROC workers collected dozens of bags no longer securely fastened to the iron racks designed to contain them. 2) Instead of securing the bags with plastic coated copper wire (which PROC has been dropping into the bay during harvest for many. many years), they changed fasteners and used rubber straps and plastic coated metal clips.

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18 days after the cleanup, we see the bags are starting to come loose again. Close inspection reveals the straps are being stretched too tight and snapping. I shared this information with DFW staff as well as two oyster growers (I did not have PROC email info at that time)©RJames.IMG_3830

©RJames.IMG_3828

©RJames.IMG_3826
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Nearly 4 months months after their cleanup, we see the area closely resembles how it looked 18 months BEFORE the cleanup, bags loose and again at the mercy of wind and tides.
©RJames.IMG_5356

©RJames.IMG_5374

©RJames.IMG_5369

©RJames.IMG_5368

©RJames.IMG_5359
That tightly stretched rubber strap above is about to snap, letting this bag to be carried by wind and current.
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Not only is the new method to secure bags to racks by PROC NOT working, it is releasing yet another type of plastic debris into Tomales Bay. The image below shows what was collected in 1.5 hours from Lease 17 run by PROC.

plastic coated copper wire, rusty iron rods, white plastic coated metal clips, rubber straps, zip-ties and rope with stainless clips collected from lease 17 on 5 June, 2016.

plastic coated copper wire, rusty iron rods, white plastic coated metal clips, rubber straps, zip-ties and rope with stainless clips collected from lease 17 on 5 June, 2016.

The loose bags are bad enough when they blight our beaches, or in less than a month become embedded, invisible parts of the ecosystem.
©RJames.IMG_5423

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IMG_1075

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This bag lay here for less than 3 weeks.

This bag lay here for less than 3 weeks.

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The bigger problem is when these bags are struck by boat props and cut into pieces which present a hazard to wildlife which eat this small plastic debris. One local fisherman caught a tuna 50 miles offshore with a small piece of oyster grow out bag embedded in its flesh. Plastic like that below embedded in the flesh of tuna.

Tiny shards of plastic oyster farming debris collected in Tomales Bay. ©Richard James - coastodian.org

Tiny shards of plastic oyster farming debris collected in Tomales Bay.
©Richard James – coastodian.org

Shards of plastic oyster farming debris collected in Tomales Bay. ©Richard James - coastodian.org

Shards of plastic oyster farming debris collected in Tomales Bay.
©Richard James – coastodian.org

Shards of plastic oyster farming debris collected in Tomales Bay. ©Richard James - coastodian.org

Shards of plastic oyster farming debris collected in Tomales Bay.
©Richard James – coastodian.org

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If you care about the health of our bay and the planet, please write California Fish & Game Commission at fgc@fgc.ca.gov and request that they NOT renew leases for Point Reyes Oyster Company until PROC proves it is a responsible grower and does everything possible to minimize loss of gear AND regularly patrols the bay and picks up the gear they do lose. I do not have a problem with our State leasing public water bottom lands for oyster growing so long as the oyster operators treat these leases as the privilege that they are, and exercise a stewardship ethic for Tomales Bay that is also part of the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, and don’t add significant amounts of marine debris to our ecosystem. Once PROC has actually demonstrated that it can be a responsible oyster operator for six months, I would be happy to support its longer lease renewal. However, I cannot support the company receiving a lucrative lease on our public lands at this time given their very poor care of Tomales Bay.

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Respect Tomales Bay – Conservation Corps North Bay Cleans Up Marconi Cove!

Click the words above “Respect Tomales Bay – Conservation Corps North Bay…” to see this entire post.


A couple years ago while boating on Tomales Bay, I came across what I learned is called Marconi Cove.

It is state owned property that has been “left to rot” for some time now, large debris littering the place. A former gas station occupies the property along with much other debris that really shouldn’t be wasting away and spoiling Tomales Bay.

As always, click on an image to see a larger version.
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A few of the hundreds of abandoned tires at Marconi Cove - Tomales Bay ©Richard James - coastodian.org

A few of the hundreds of abandoned tires at Marconi Cove – Tomales Bay
©Richard James – coastodian.org

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A few of the hundreds of abandoned tires at Marconi Cove - Tomales Bay ©Richard James - coastodian.org

A few of the hundreds of abandoned tires at Marconi Cove – Tomales Bay
©Richard James – coastodian.org

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A few of the hundreds of abandoned tires at Marconi Cove - Tomales Bay ©Richard James - coastodian.org

A few of the hundreds of abandoned tires at Marconi Cove – Tomales Bay
©Richard James – coastodian.org

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A few of the hundreds of abandoned tires at Marconi Cove - Tomales Bay ©Richard James - coastodian.org

A few of the hundreds of abandoned tires at Marconi Cove – Tomales Bay
©Richard James – coastodian.org

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A few of the hundreds of abandoned tires at Marconi Cove - Tomales Bay ©Richard James - coastodian.org

A few of the hundreds of abandoned tires at Marconi Cove – Tomales Bay
©Richard James – coastodian.org

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The good news is that nearly one hundred large truck tires have been hauled away.

Brandon Benton and his crew of hard working youth at the North Bay Conservation Corps learned of this mess from Dale Dualin at NPS-Point Reyes Seashore.

Over a few weeks, Brandon and crew dis-assembled and hauled off the mess you see in the following images.

A big shout out to both Brandon and Dale – Thanks guys!

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CCNB crew cleaning up abandoned tires at Marconi Cove, Tomales Bay ©Brandon Benton - Conservation Corps North Bay

CCNB crew cleaning up abandoned tires at Marconi Cove, Tomales Bay
©Brandon Benton – Conservation Corps North Bay

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CCNB crew cleaning up abandoned tires at Marconi Cove, Tomales Bay ©Brandon Benton - Conservation Corps North Bay

CCNB crew cleaning up abandoned tires at Marconi Cove, Tomales Bay
©Brandon Benton – Conservation Corps North Bay

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CCNB crew cleaning up abandoned tires at Marconi Cove, Tomales Bay ©Brandon Benton - Conservation Corps North Bay

CCNB crew cleaning up abandoned tires at Marconi Cove, Tomales Bay
©Brandon Benton – Conservation Corps North Bay

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CCNB crew cleaning up abandoned tires at Marconi Cove, Tomales Bay ©Brandon Benton - Conservation Corps North Bay

CCNB crew cleaning up abandoned tires at Marconi Cove, Tomales Bay
©Brandon Benton – Conservation Corps North Bay

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CCNB crew cleaning up abandoned tires at Marconi Cove, Tomales Bay ©Brandon Benton - Conservation Corps North Bay

CCNB crew cleaning up abandoned tires at Marconi Cove, Tomales Bay
©Brandon Benton – Conservation Corps North Bay

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CCNB crew cleaning up abandoned tires at Marconi Cove, Tomales Bay ©Brandon Benton - Conservation Corps North Bay

CCNB crew cleaning up abandoned tires at Marconi Cove, Tomales Bay
©Brandon Benton – Conservation Corps North Bay

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

Marconi Cove - Tomales Bay - Without so many tires spoiling the view! ©Richard James - coastodian.org

Marconi Cove – Tomales Bay – Without so many tires spoiling the view!
©Richard James – coastodian.org

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There are still well over a hundred tires cemented into a wall (what were they thinking????) that need to be removed.

That is a project for another day.

Concrete and tire wall still blighting Marconi Cove - Tomales Bay ©Richard James - coastodian.org

Concrete and tire wall still blighting Marconi Cove – Tomales Bay
©Richard James – coastodian.org

Concrete and tire wall still blighting Marconi Cove - Tomales Bay ©Richard James - coastodian.org

Concrete and tire wall still blighting Marconi Cove – Tomales Bay
©Richard James – coastodian.org

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Now, if only we can get the folks at Cove Mussel Company to clean up their dilapidated, unused oyster racks and other mess….

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

Unused iron racks, blighting Marconi Cove, Tomales Bay ©Richard James - coastodian.org

Unused iron racks, blighting Marconi Cove, Tomales Bay
©Richard James – coastodian.org

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Unused iron racks, blighting Marconi Cove, Tomales Bay ©Richard James - coastodian.org

Unused iron racks, blighting Marconi Cove, Tomales Bay
©Richard James – coastodian.org

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Unused iron racks, blighting Marconi Cove, Tomales Bay ©Richard James - coastodian.org

Unused iron racks, blighting Marconi Cove, Tomales Bay
©Richard James – coastodian.org

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Unused iron racks, blighting Marconi Cove, Tomales Bay ©Richard James - coastodian.org

Unused iron racks, blighting Marconi Cove, Tomales Bay
©Richard James – coastodian.org

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Previous related post may be found here.

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

Respect Tomales Bay 43 – Best Management Practices in the oyster farming industry

Click the words above “Respect Tomales Bay – Best Management Practices” to see this entire post.

First, there is a name change to these related posts about the health & beauty of Tomales Bay.

Initially, I published some words and pictures under the title “Save our Tomales Bay” meant as a parody on the many black & white & blue signs that sprung up along the coast like toadstools a few years back in support of what is now history, except for the mess that still rests on the bottom of Drakes Estero. From now on, these posts will start out with “Respect Tomales Bay”.

Recently I was contacted by an “Oceanic CSA” in Santa Cruz CA looking to add responsibly farmed oysters to their offerings. They’d been reaching out to various oyster farmers in the Tomales Bay area and my name kept coming up. Read about what a CSA is here, and here.

I explained my connection to oyster farming and Tomales Bay as well as who I thought grew oysters responsibly (few), who I thought grew oysters questionably (most).

The caller was most appreciative. I’ve invited their company to a Tomales Bay kayak tour like never before experienced. They accepted.

If oyster growers used gear that was marked to make it easy for an independent observer to identify who was causing problems for the environment (from said gear being let loose on mother earth by wind, wave and poor design/practices) it would be easier to promote responsible growers and to contact those growers in need of improvement to their practices, instead of painting the entire region as mess-makers. Uniquely marked gear has been suggested to the Fish & Game Commission (FGC) for some time now.

The FGC has been mulling over the implementation of Best Management Practices (BMP’s) for at least a year now, likely much longer than that, with little more than meeting agenda items to show for it. I did hear the President of the Dept. of Fish & Wildlife say at the last meeting I attended (Feb 2016 – Sacto) that they need to update the escrow language in the leases, they need to get BMP’s in the leases, and they need to do it right. Let’s hope they also do it soon!

To be fair, The Commission has, at last count three vacancies. Which means more work for the current three commissioners. I wish them the best in filling those vacant seats with capable commissioners. I’ll do all I can to show The Commission what is actually taking place on the oyster leases in California.

You can read about what I suggested as BMP’s in April 2015 here.

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Click on image to see larger version

Tomales Bay at mouth of Walker Creek - public land leased to private companies to grow Japanese oysters, Atlantic oysters, Manilla clams. ©Richard James - coastodian.org

Tomales Bay at mouth of Walker Creek – public land leased to private companies to grow Japanese oysters, Atlantic oysters, Manilla clams.
©Richard James – coastodian.org

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Next related post maybe 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 – 39 Leasewalk M430-17, Point Reyes Oyster Company, a 2nd look

Click the words above “Save our Tomales Bay – 39 Leasewalk M430-17…” to see this entire post.

March 2015 I shared some disturbing images of an area used (misused) by Point Reyes Oyster Company to grow oysters using a method known as rack & bag culture. Click here to see that post.

August 2015 a meeting was held at Marconi Center in Marshall where most growers and most agencies with jurisdiction over Tomales Bay were present. The owner of PROC was present as I made a presentation on the state of the messes left by mariculture practices in Tomales Bay for nearly a century. See that presentation here.

At this meeting, the owner of PROC stated that he did not like losing gear and would appreciate it if I, or anyone else that found his abandoned oyster/clam bags would simply return them to him.

Another attendee of this meeting, Tom Baty mentioned that as the leader of the Tomales Bay cleanup project for 11 years, this group, at the suggestion of the growers, would leave found bags at the boat ramp at Marconi Cove for the growers to pickup. Tom stated that no bags were ever picked up by the growers.

November 2015 I recorded images of this area yet again. It appears that no effort had been made to pick up any of the bags strewn about on the bay bottom. Watch the 6 minute video below and see for yourself.

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Click on this image, then click again to see it in great detail.

Overhead view of rack & bag culture area on lease M-430-17.

Overhead view of rack & bag culture area on lease M-430-17.

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Harsh winds and waves disperses these bags all over the bay. In the wetlands at the mouth of Walker Creek, in less than three weeks, salt grass and pickleweed grow through the mesh and almost completely cover a grow out bag, making it a permanent and invisible part of the precious ecosystem that is Tomales Bay.

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This bag lay here for less than 3 weeks.

This bag lay here for less than 3 weeks.

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If growers what to continue to use public waters to make a profit, they need to show greater respect for the planet. Improving their methods so they lose less gear, and recovering any lost gear themselves.

Likewise, the California Department of Fish & Wildlife needs to take a more active role in enforcing litter laws and actually monitoring the leases they administer on a regular basis.

In the future, additional coastodians near Morro Bay and Humboldt Bay will help ensure growers adhere to Best Management Practices [soon to be included in all mariculture leases]. These new coastodians will also monitor the job being done by agencies whose mission is oversight of growers profiting from public lands and waters

Each year, 8 million metric tons of plastic are dumped into the seas of our tiny planet. Each of us needs to redouble our efforts in making sure we are not adding to that number, and, that we do all we can to help others meet the same goal.

According to a recent report by The World Economic Forum, by the year 2050, there will be more plastic in the sea than fish.

CSIRO researchers predict that plastic ingestion will affect 99 per cent of the world’s seabird species by 2050, based on current trends. Study abstract here.

Be sure to click to watch on a large screen and click the small rectangular icon in the lower right of the video window to view in full-screen mode.

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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 27 Good news continues

Click the above words “Save our Tomales Bay – Part 26 Good news and great news” to see this entire post.

As I slipped on my mud boots yesterday in preparation for my seventy-seventh week of walking the shore near the TBOC retail site to pick up their trash, an odd sound filled the air.

Power tools, like none I’d heard before at the farm. Hmmmm?

Found zip-tie number one as soon as I set foot on the beach. No zero-day day today Tod. Soon, the second and third were in the bag. Along with some “tourist trash”, or likely oyster customer trash given the location. Still that sound…..

Then I turned the corner to see Tod and nine of his guys fanned out in the mud, picking up trash. Was I hallucinating?

No, there they were.

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Tomales Bay Oyster Company owner and staff picking up their trash. What a great idea!

Tomales Bay Oyster Company owner and staff picking up their trash. What a great idea!

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The truck was on the beach too, but no oysters in it.

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Truck full of Tomales Bay Oyster Company trash no longer creating an eyesore in the bay, nor a risk to wildlife.

Truck full of Tomales Bay Oyster Company trash no longer creating an eyesore in the bay, nor a risk to wildlife.

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Next to the truck was the source of the noise. Tod had hired 1-800-got-junk to cut up the large mountain of rusting oyster racks that had been in the bay for 25 years, and on this beach for a few months at least.

This is a great sight to see. I thanked Tod and his workers and even tried to help them, but was shooed away by Tod.

Let’s hope that this trend continues. That is, any mess made by the oyster companies gets picked up by the oyster companies. Tod and his workers told me there are at least as many old, rusting racks spoiling the bay still to be removed.
Not to mention the thousands of PVC tubes and other plastic trash left over from Drew Alden, the previous leaseholder that left this in the bay for somebody else to deal with.

Preferably, we’ll see oyster companies that make very little mess.

Redesigning their gear to reduce loss, regular patrols of the beaches and bay to pickup their lost gear in a timely fashion and workers that do not take shortcuts or purposely drop garbage in the bay will all contribute to a healthier ecosystem.

Panorama of the area blighted by Tomales Bay Oyster Company, in the process of being de-blighted.

Panorama of the area blighted by Tomales Bay Oyster Company, in the process of being de-blighted.

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1-800-got-junk guys removing oyster farming junk from Tomales Bay.

1-800-got-junk guys removing oyster farming junk from Tomales Bay.

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Gordon Bennett did a very good job of addressing the deficiencies in the leases signed by the growers and the California Fish & Game Commission.

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Click the “pop-out” icon in the upperight corner of the image below to view this important document

Download (PDF, 349KB)

Please take a moment to read this brief document, then write Sonke Mastrup, the Executive Director of the Fish & Game Commission, as well as Randy Lovell, the State Aquaculture Coordinator at the CA Dept Fish & Wildlife and tell them you want stronger language in the leases they provide to growers using your waters to make a profit.

Sonke can be reached at: fgc@fgc.ca.gov – 916-653-4899

Randy can be reached at: randy.lovell@wildlife.ca.gov – 916-445-2008

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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.

Save our Tomales Bay – Part 24 Whence cometh the detritus

Click on the words above “Save our Tomales Bay – Part 24 Whence cometh the detritus” to see this entire post.

Over the past few years of working with local oyster farmers to improve their processes in order to leave less trash in our local waters, I’ve heard them say more than once “When we go out on our yearly trash pickups, we always find more non-oyster trash than oyster farm trash.”

Let’s look at this statement in more detail.

Yearly litter pickups.

Look at the image below of a grow-out bag nearly obscured by pickleweed in less than 3 weeks at the mouth of Walker Creek.

click on image, then click once more to see a much larger version.

This bag lay here for less than three weeks!

This bag lay here for less than three weeks!

Imagine if the growers came out a year later to look for this bag. Do you think they would have found it?

I had scoured this same area less than three weeks previously and that bag was not there.

No wonder the growers don’t find much oyster trash on their yearly cleanups, nature has enveloped their mess, making it invisible to their efforts.

Growers need to go out every two weeks in order to keep their mess from becoming a permanent part of the very same ecosystem they extract profit from. They need to walk the shores, as I do. At Hog Island Oysters and Tomales Bay Oyster Company, efforts to redesign gear to avoid these losses are underway, a good thing.

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Now let’s look at my cleanup efforts from two consecutive weeks along the shore from Preston Point to the fence at the Audubon Canyon parcel at Tom’s Point, as well as a small section of the Point Reyes Oyster Company lease at Walker Creek.

NOTE: click on an image, then click once more to see a much larger version.

May 3rd

Alleged non-oyster litter collected on 3 May, 2015 along coast from Preston Point to Audubon Canyon Ranch parcel.

Alleged non-oyster litter collected on 3 May, 2015 along coast from Preston Point to Audubon Canyon Ranch parcel.

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Alleged oyster litter collected on 3 May, 2015 along coast from Preston Point to Audubon Canyon Ranch parcel.  Large zip ties found on beach adjacent to Hog Island lease at Tom's Point. 53 abandoned oyster grow-out bags were also located, 26 of which hauled out.

Alleged oyster litter collected on 3 May, 2015 along coast from Preston Point to Audubon Canyon Ranch parcel. Large zip ties found on beach adjacent to Hog Island lease at Tom’s Point. 53 abandoned oyster grow-out bags were also located, 26 of which hauled out.


To the above items, add 53 grow-out bags, a very large volume of high-density polyethylene being ground into tiny bits by sand, wave and wind.

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May 10th

Alleged non-oyster litter collected on 10 May, 2015 along coast from Preston Point to Audubon Canyon Ranch parcel.

Alleged non-oyster litter collected on 10 May, 2015 along coast from Preston Point to Audubon Canyon Ranch parcel.

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Alleged oyster litter collected on 10 May, 2015 along coast from Preston Point to Audubon Canyon Ranch parcel.  Plastic coated copper wire found under Point Reyes Oyster Company racks, large zip ties found on beach adjacent to Hog Island lease at Tom's Point. 154 abandoned oyster grow-out bags were also located, 41 of which hauled out.

Alleged oyster litter collected on 10 May, 2015 along coast from Preston Point to Audubon Canyon Ranch parcel. Plastic coated copper wire found under Point Reyes Oyster Company racks, large zip ties found on beach adjacent to Hog Island lease at Tom’s Point. 154 abandoned oyster grow-out bags were also located, 41 of which hauled out.


To the above items, add 154 grow-out bags, a very large volume of high-density polyethylene being ground into tiny bits by sand, wave and wind.

The ratio of “tourist” trash to oyster trash varies over the year, depending on weather and visitation.

If you don’t look for it, you won’t find it! Oyster growers need to get out of their boats more often, they will find what I find if they are willing to walk the shore and mudflats and look.
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A list of proposed best practices I drew up was submitted to the Fish & Game Commission in April at their meeting in Santa Rosa. Both Hog Island Oysters and Tomales Bay Oyster Company are in the process of redesigning their gear, both of which I applaud. With better gear to withstand the beating doled out by sun, wind and waves, less of this gear will go missing, which means a healthier ecosystem for all.

Let’s hope this trend continues, for earth’s sake.

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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 22 Leasewalk M430-17, Point Reyes Oyster Company

Click the words above “Save our Tomales Bay – Part 22 Leasewalk M430-17…” to see this entire post.

On 14 March I paid a visit to the large lease operated by Point Reyes Oyster Company (PROC) at the mouth of Walker Creek.

Below you can see some images showing the state of this leased area on that day.

I have lifted and shaken many bags on this lease, and as far as I can tell, all the oysters in these bags are dead.

Other oyster growers may be dropping zip ties by the thousands into Tomales Bay, but Point Reyes Oyster Company seems to prefer to drop plastic coated copper wire with the same fervor.

Can all this plastic and copper be good for the native organisms living (trying to live) in Tomales Bay?

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Area in bright polygon depicts lease M-430-17, the area shown in the images below.

Area in bright polygon depicts lease M-430-17, the area shown in the images below.

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Grow-out bags laying in the mud, racks in a state of disrepair on lease M-430-17, run by Point Reyes Oyster Company.

Grow-out bags laying in the mud, racks in a state of disrepair on lease M-430-17, run by Point Reyes Oyster Company.

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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.

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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Mystery cloth serving unknown purpose (other than littering) on lease M-430-17, run by Point Reyes Oyster Company.

Mystery cloth serving unknown purpose (other than littering) on lease M-430-17, run by Point Reyes Oyster Company.

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Mystery cloth serving unknown purpose (other than littering) on lease M-430-17, run by Point Reyes Oyster Company.

Mystery cloth serving unknown purpose (other than littering) on lease M-430-17, run by Point Reyes Oyster Company.

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Mystery cloth serving unknown purpose (other than littering) on lease M-430-17, run by Point Reyes Oyster Company.

Mystery cloth serving unknown purpose (other than littering) on lease M-430-17, run by Point Reyes Oyster Company.

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Abandoned grow-out bag laying in the mud on lease M-430-17, run by Point Reyes Oyster Company.

Abandoned grow-out bag laying in the mud on lease M-430-17, run by Point Reyes Oyster Company.

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Abandoned grow-out bag laying in the mud on lease M-430-17, run by Point Reyes Oyster Company.

Abandoned grow-out bag laying in the mud on lease M-430-17, run by Point Reyes Oyster Company.

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Grow-out bags laying in the mud on lease M-430-17, run by Point Reyes Oyster Company.

Grow-out bags laying in the mud on lease M-430-17, run by Point Reyes Oyster Company.

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Grow-out bags laying in the mud on lease M-430-17, run by Point Reyes Oyster Company.

Grow-out bags laying in the mud on lease M-430-17, run by Point Reyes Oyster Company.

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Racks in a state of disrepair on lease M-430-17, run by Point Reyes Oyster Company.

Racks in a state of disrepair on lease M-430-17, run by Point Reyes Oyster Company.

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Grow-out bags laying in the mud, racks in a state of disrepair on lease M-430-17, run by Point Reyes Oyster Company.

Grow-out bags laying in the mud, racks in a state of disrepair on lease M-430-17, run by Point Reyes Oyster Company.

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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 21 Leasewalk M430-15, M-430-10 of Hog Island Oysters

Click the words above “Save our Tomales Bay Part 21 Leasewalk M430-15…” to see this entire post.

On 22 March I paid a visit to the large lease operated by Hog Island Oysters (HIO) near Tom’s Point (lease M-430-15), and another Hog Island lease at the mouth of Walker Creek (lease M-430-10).

I’ve been mostly sharing findings on the leases run by Tomales Bay Oyster Company (TBOC) due to the ease of access to the southern lease, as well as because their leases are some of the messiest places on the bay.

Getting to the far north lease of HIO takes more time and energy, so I don’t get there too often.

Often I am asked by people “What about Hog Island? Do they make as big a mess as TBOC?)

My usual response is “All the growers make a mess, HIO makes the least mess from what I can tell.”

Until now, I thought TBOC and crew were the only culprits when it came to cutting and dropping zip-ties into the bay during harvest. I found 54 zip-ties on this day along a very short section of shore, with only moderate effort.

As you can see from the images below, HIO has room to improve their methods.

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

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Green polygon depicts Hog Island Oysters lease M-430-15, near Tom's Point. Red arrow points to location where abandoned grow-out bags were left on 22 March. Each yellow pin shows location of abandoned grow-out bag. T21 is where I reattached 3 bags of live oysters to anchor line.

Green polygon depicts Hog Island Oysters lease M-430-15, near Tom’s Point. Red arrow points to location where abandoned grow-out bags were left on 22 March. Each yellow pin shows location of abandoned grow-out bag. T21 is where I reattached 3 bags of live oysters to anchor line.

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©Richard James - coastodian.org Abandoned Hog Island Oysters grow-out bag hauled out on Pierce Point (PRNS) on 22 March, 2015

©Richard James – coastodian.org
Abandoned Hog Island Oysters grow-out bag hauled out on Pierce Point (PRNS) on 22 March, 2015

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©Richard James - coastodian.org Abandoned??? Hog Island Oysters grow-out bags on lease M-430-10 on 22 March, 2015

©Richard James – coastodian.org
Abandoned??? Hog Island Oysters grow-out bags on lease M-430-10 on 22 March, 2015

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©Richard James - coastodian.org Hog Island Oysters grow-out bags on lease M-430-10 on 22 March, 2015

©Richard James – coastodian.org
Hog Island Oysters grow-out bags on lease M-430-10 on 22 March, 2015

©Richard James - coastodian.org Abandoned oyster rack lumber on Hog Island Oysters lease M-430-10 on 22 March, 2015

©Richard James – coastodian.org
Abandoned oyster rack lumber on Hog Island Oysters lease M-430-10 on 22 March, 2015

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©Richard James - coastodian.org Abandoned oyster rack lumber on Hog Island Oysters lease M-430-10 on 22 March, 2015

©Richard James – coastodian.org
Abandoned oyster rack lumber on Hog Island Oysters lease M-430-10 on 22 March, 2015

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©Richard James - coastodian.org Abandoned??? oyster grow-out bag on Hog Island Oysters lease M-430-10 on 22 March, 2015

©Richard James – coastodian.org
Abandoned??? oyster grow-out bag on Hog Island Oysters lease M-430-10 on 22 March, 2015

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©Richard James - coastodian.org Abandoned oyster rack lumber on Hog Island Oysters lease M-430-10 on 22 March, 2015

©Richard James – coastodian.org
Abandoned oyster rack lumber on Hog Island Oysters lease M-430-10 on 22 March, 2015

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©Richard James - coastodian.org Abandoned oyster rack lumber on Hog Island Oysters lease M-430-10 on 22 March, 2015

©Richard James – coastodian.org
Abandoned oyster rack lumber on Hog Island Oysters lease M-430-10 on 22 March, 2015

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©Richard James - coastodian.org Abandoned oyster grow-out bag on Hog Island Oysters lease M-430-10 on 22 March, 2015

©Richard James – coastodian.org
Abandoned oyster grow-out bag on Hog Island Oysters lease M-430-10 on 22 March, 2015

©Richard James - coastodian.org Abandoned oyster grow-out bag on Hog Island Oysters lease M-430-10 on 22 March, 2015

©Richard James – coastodian.org
Abandoned oyster grow-out bag on Hog Island Oysters lease M-430-10 on 22 March, 2015

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©Richard James - coastodian.org Abandoned ??? oyster grow-out bags on Hog Island Oysters lease M-430-10 on 22 March, 2015

©Richard James – coastodian.org
Abandoned ??? oyster grow-out bags on Hog Island Oysters lease M-430-10 on 22 March, 2015

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©Richard James - coastodian.org Abandoned oyster rack lumber on Hog Island Oysters lease M-430-10 on 22 March, 2015

©Richard James – coastodian.org
Abandoned oyster rack lumber on Hog Island Oysters lease M-430-10 on 22 March, 2015

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©Richard James - coastodian.org Abandoned oyster rack lumber on Hog Island Oysters lease M-430-10 on 22 March, 2015

©Richard James – coastodian.org
Abandoned oyster rack lumber on Hog Island Oysters lease M-430-10 on 22 March, 2015

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©Richard James - coastodian.org Recovered bags with live oysters, now reattached on lease M-430-15, see waypoint T21 on map at top of post.

©Richard James – coastodian.org
Recovered bags with live oysters, now reattached on lease M-430-15, see waypoint T21 on map at top of post.

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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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©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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©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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©Richard James - coastodian.org Pisaster ocreceus that was inside a nearly empty, mostly buried in mud, bag of dead manilla clams

©Richard James – coastodian.org
Pisaster ocreceus that was inside a nearly empty, mostly buried in mud, bag of dead manilla clams

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

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

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©Richard James - coastodian.org Stanway oyster racks and abandoned rack lumber on Hog Island Oysters lease M-430-10 on 22 March, 2015

©Richard James – coastodian.org
Stanway oyster racks and abandoned rack lumber on Hog Island Oysters lease M-430-10 on 22 March, 2015

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©Richard James - coastodian.org Stanway oyster racks on Hog Island Oysters lease M-430-10 on 22 March, 2015

©Richard James – coastodian.org
Stanway oyster racks on Hog Island Oysters lease M-430-10 on 22 March, 2015

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©Richard James - coastodian.org Stanway oyster racks on Hog Island Oysters lease M-430-10 on 22 March, 2015

©Richard James – coastodian.org
Stanway oyster racks on Hog Island Oysters lease M-430-10 on 22 March, 2015

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©Richard James - coastodian.org Abandoned zip-ties, rope remnants, float, grow-out bag remnants, PVC pipe remnants, collected from shore adjacent to Hog Island Oysters lease M-430-15 and Tomales Bay Oyster Company lease M-430-04 on 22 March, 2015

©Richard James – coastodian.org
Abandoned zip-ties, rope remnants, float, grow-out bag remnants, PVC pipe remnants, collected from shore adjacent to Hog Island Oysters lease M-430-15 and Tomales Bay Oyster Company lease M-430-04 on 22 March, 2015

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©Richard James - coastodian.org Abandoned zip-ties, rope remnants, float collected from shore adjacent to Hog Island Oysters lease M-430-15 on 22 March, 2015

©Richard James – coastodian.org
Abandoned zip-ties, rope remnants, float collected from shore adjacent to Hog Island Oysters lease M-430-15 on 22 March, 2015

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©Richard James - coastodian.org Abandoned zip-ties & rope remnants, float collected on shore adjacent to Hog Island Oysters lease M-430-15 on 22 March, 2015

©Richard James – coastodian.org
Abandoned zip-ties & rope remnants, float collected on shore adjacent to Hog Island Oysters lease M-430-15 on 22 March, 2015

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©Richard James - coastodian.org Abandoned zip-ties collected on shore adjacent to Hog Island Oysters lease M-430-15 on 22 March, 2015

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

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©Richard James - coastodian.org Abandoned rope remnants collected on shore adjacent to Hog Island Oysters lease M-430-15 on 22 March, 2015

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

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©Richard James - coastodian.org Abandoned zip-ties collected on shore adjacent to Hog Island Oysters lease M-430-15 on 22 March, 2015

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

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©Richard James - coastodian.org Abandoned zip-ties collected on shore adjacent to Hog Island Oysters lease M-430-15 on 22 March, 2015

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

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©Richard James - coastodian.org Abandoned zip-ties collected on shore adjacent to Hog Island Oysters lease M-430-15 on 22 March, 2015

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

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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 20, Tomales Bay Oyster Company ushers in new era in responsible oyster farming

Click the words “Save our Tomales Bay…..” above to see this entire post.

Over the past two years I’ve been boating the waters and walking the shore of Tomales Bay cleaning up all the trash I find, most of it from the oyster farmers.

I’ve focused on TBOC given my proximity to their ~160 acre southern lease and their proclivity to make a mess. Soon you will be seeing reports showcasing the activities of the other growers of Tomales Bay.

In the meantime, I am very pleased to share images of a very positive change of events.

One of my big gripes of the oyster farmers is how they blame messes on the prior leaseholder.

I’ve been gently suggesting to the owner of TBOC for some time that it would be a good idea to remove the thousands of PVC tubes and hundreds of rusting re-bar racks that sit idle, an unsightly testament to the past.

Well, Saturday while out for my weekly walk of the shore near to the TBOC retail site, a longtime TBOC worker showed me how he had removed two rows of rusting racks. A very time-consuming, but welcome effort.

There are hundreds of racks left to remove on the southern TBOC lease, as well as hundreds more up at Walker Creek on other growers’, leases.

But, this is a HUGE and welcome effort by TBOC and I want to thank them and encourage them to keep at it.

Thank you TBOC. Tomales Bay thanks you, the flora and fauna of Tomales Bay thank you, and I hope the people of West Marin thank you for cleaning up what has been a blight on the bay for nearly two decades.

See this post for the area I am speaking of.

Here are some images of a portion of the TBOC southern lease area that needs to be cleaned up.

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©Richard James - coastodian.org rebar racks that have blighted Tomales Bay for 25 years, on their way to the recycle center.

©Richard James – coastodian.org
rebar racks that have blighted Tomales Bay for 25 years, on their way to the recycle center.

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©Richard James - coastodian.org rebar racks that have blighted Tomales Bay for 25 years, on their way to the recycle center.

©Richard James – coastodian.org
rebar racks that have blighted Tomales Bay for 25 years, on their way to the recycle center.

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©Richard James - coastodian.org Debris from the Drew Alden era of farming this lease. There are many scores of rigs just like this, littering the bottom of Tomales Bay.

©Richard James – coastodian.org
Debris from the Drew Alden era of farming this lease. There are many scores of rigs just like this, littering the bottom of Tomales Bay.

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©Richard James - coastodian.org rebar racks that have blighted Tomales Bay for 25 years, on their way to the recycle center.

©Richard James – coastodian.org
rebar racks that have blighted Tomales Bay for 25 years, on their way to the recycle center.

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©Richard James - coastodian.org rebar racks that have blighted Tomales Bay for 25 years, on their way to the recycle center.

©Richard James – coastodian.org
rebar racks that have blighted Tomales Bay for 25 years, on their way to the recycle center.

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Now for some of the cleanup work going on to right this wrong.

See the video and stills below of the progress being made.


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©Richard James - coastodian.org rebar racks that have blighted Tomales Bay for 25 years, on their way to the recycle center.

©Richard James – coastodian.org
rebar racks that have blighted Tomales Bay for 25 years, on their way to the recycle center.

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©Richard James - coastodian.org rebar racks that have blighted Tomales Bay for 25 years, on their way to the recycle center.

©Richard James – coastodian.org
rebar racks that have blighted Tomales Bay for 25 years, on their way to the recycle center.

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©Richard James - coastodian.org rebar racks that have blighted Tomales Bay for 25 years, on their way to the recycle center.

©Richard James – coastodian.org
rebar racks that have blighted Tomales Bay for 25 years, on their way to the recycle center.

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©Richard James - coastodian.org plastic wrapped high-density blue foam floats that disintegrate and foul Tomales Bay, and the oceans of the world, destined for the landfill.

©Richard James – coastodian.org
plastic wrapped high-density blue foam floats that disintegrate and foul Tomales Bay, and the oceans of the world, destined for the landfill.

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©Richard James - coastodian.org rebar racks that have blighted Tomales Bay for 25 years, on their way to the recycle center.

©Richard James – coastodian.org
rebar racks that have blighted Tomales Bay for 25 years, on their way to the recycle center.

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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.