Respecting Tomales Bay – 16 September 2017 is coastal cleanup day – meet at Marconi Center

Help clean up Tomales Bay, then enjoy an oyster BBQ.

Go here to register.

Show up a little early to the activity field at Marconi.

845 am show up
900 am – noon show the bay some love
noon – 200 pm enjoy a bbq oyster feast

Respect Tomales Bay – Oyster growers making great strides to lose less gear, clean up what is lost

Click on the words above “Respect Tomales Bay – Oyster growers making great strides…” to see this entire post.

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 – TBOC makes a huge effort, cleaning up legacy trash left by others.

Click on the words above “Respect Tomales Bay – TBOC makes a huge effort…” to see this entire post.

Ten days ago while walking the mudflats at the mouth of Walker Creek I came across a most interesting find.

A large amount of abandoned oyster racks and grow out bags.

Now, those of you that follow my efforts on Tomales Bay might say, “Richard, what is so interesting about abandoned oyster racks and grow out bags? You have been finding and ranting about that stuff for a few years now…yawn.”

Well, let me tell you what is so interesting about this particular find.

As you may know by now, a series of unpermitted fences meant to redirect the flow of Walker Creek have blighted The Bay for upwards of 15 years. You can read about these structures here, here, here and here for starters.

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Here are two images showing one such fence before removal, as it was on 17 January, 2015.

Now removed Walker Creek diverting pile of plastic and oyster shells.

Now removed Walker Creek diverting pile of plastic and oyster shells.

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Those fences were removed last year before an epic series of storms graced the area with much needed rain, rain that made its way down Walker Creek with a full head of steam. Instead of being shunted to the north by a wall of plastic bags, PVC pipes, concrete pilings, plastic-coated copper wire and zip-ties – all that lovely water was once again allowed to run freely.

The huge volume of water that poured naturally through what had for 15 or more years been a mudflat uncovered an enormous amount of abandoned iron racks and plastic bags (many filled with dead non-native oysters). This debris was left there after the 1982 epic flood that buried much, if not all of the oysters being farmed by International Shellfish Corporation.

Of course I made photographs and recorded Lat/Lon waypoints of this find.

I shared this information with all the current growers (including TBOC, on whose lease this legacy debris had remained hidden all these years), as well as some of the alphabet soup of agencies responsible for caring for the precious coastline – CFGC, CFDW, CCC amongst them.

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Map showing debris and where it was located (click on map for larger image)

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Unable to lift out this mess myself due to an injured back (from lifting non-oyster farming debris out of the bay a month prior), I gave this information to the growers and agencies and hoped that someone would take the ball and run, before the tides once again covered it back up.

The next day, most, if not all of the TBOC crew was onsite pulling this gear out of the mud, piling it along the newly formed channel. How awesome is that!

A big thank you to TBOC for stepping up to remove gear that was on public land which they lease, though not their gear. They recovered 223 bags, some still with dated tags from 1980 on them, as well as many hundreds of pounds of sharp, rusty iron racks.

Let’s hope other growers on the bay follow this lead and remove legacy gear from public land they now lease, littered with gear from years ago. Ideally the agencies tasked with regulating aquaculture on public lands will pitch in to help current growers deal with messes left by those that came before them.

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Debris recovered and removed by TBOC!

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Image showing location where legacy debris was removed by TBOC staff. Red line shows location of former unpermitted creek-deflecting berm.

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Image showing location where legacy debris was removed by TBOC staff. Red line shows location of former unpermitted creek-deflecting berm.

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Removing the vast amount of Oyster Farming Legacy (OFL – rhymes with awful) is not as simple as heading out and picking up this stuff. Some permits are needed in order to do needed cleanup work in the coastal zone. Permits that TBOC had in hand to effect the (almost) complete removal of the last of their creek-deflecting structures.

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What must now happen is for the Fish & Game Commission and Department of Fish & Wildlife to step up and take responsibility for their growers of days gone by (some under their watch, some before their watch began) and do the necessary leg work to secure permits for the removal of the remaining OFL blighting Tomales Bay, as well as make the removal happen. Growing shellfish along the coast is OK by me, as long as it is done truly sustainably, by those practicing Authentic Stewardship.

Now more than ever we need to protect the environment.

Undoing the damages from past practices, as well as incorporating Best Management Proactices (BMPs) into leases and redesigning the cleanup fund escrow system to remove the numerous conflict of interest issues, as well as to give it teeth make good sense. This is especially important in light of the new application to practice aquaculture in Tomales Bay that has been recently submitted.
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Below are images showing some of the debris still left all around Tomales Bay by growers of yesteryear needing to be removed by Authentic Stewards.

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Some of the many dozens of sharp, rusty iron racks littering Tomales Bay, presenting a danger to all who boat there.

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Some of the many dozens of sharp, rusty iron racks littering Tomales Bay, presenting a danger to all who boat there.

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Four telephone-sized treated pilings and ten or so sharp rusty racks, all abandoned in The Bay long ago.

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140+ treated pilings abandoned long ago near Tom’s Point.

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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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Save our Tomales Bay – 41 Oyster growers put on notice by fish & game commission!

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

For the past four years I’ve paddled, snorkled and walked in and around Tomales Bay as I enjoy this jewel of nature. Drawn to the natural beauty, I’ve recorded thousands of images of the bay and those who call it home.

Humans make their home along the shore of Tomales Bay, recreate in the bay and along the shore, as well as extract a living by growing non-native shellfish in the waters of the bay.

Unfortunately, humans are too often careless in how we treat our home, which also happens to be home to thousands of other species too.

I’ve made it a mission of mine to clean up and protect Tomales Bay from further degradation.

In service of this mission, I’ve spent a lot of time over the past year sharing my findings with the growers and government agencies tasked with protecting nature from us humans. This past week I took another day off work (my fifth over the last year) to drive to Sacramento and speak to the Fish & Game Commission (FGC) on the topic of renewing two leases operated by Point Reyes Oyster Company (PROC) to grow oysters & clams in Tomales Bay. PROC is a company whose questionable practices have had a huge and horrible impact on Tomales Bay. I was shocked to hear that these leases were going to be renewed for another fifteen years.

Thankfully, after hearing from myself and others, the FGC decided to NOT renew these leases. Rather, FGC gave a one year lease extension to PROC. Time to correct past mistakes, clean up debris and prove oysters & clams can be grown in Tomales Bay without destroying Tomales Bay.

This happened 8 days ago.

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Click on the image to see a larger version

PROC workers undoing years of neglect in Tomales Bay at Walker Creek. ©Richard James - coastodian.org

PROC workers undoing years of neglect in Tomales Bay at Walker Creek.
©Richard James – coastodian.org

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Five days later, this past Monday, five PROC workers were on their northern lease (lease 17) to pick up bags of dead clams & oysters littering the bay, secure bags of oysters to racks that were long ago pushed off by the tides far and wide. Pick up broken iron racks and bits of racks and hundreds, possibly thousands of lengths of plastic coated copper wire dropped in the bay to rot and leach plastic into the very waters in which these oysters grow. One of their workers assured me that the next day there would be ten workers on this task and that if I came back in two weeks, I’d not recognize the place. I happily took him up on his offer.

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PROC workers undoing years of neglect in Tomales Bay at Walker Creek. ©Richard James - coastodian.org

PROC workers undoing years of neglect in Tomales Bay at Walker Creek.
©Richard James – coastodian.org

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PROC workers undoing years of neglect in Tomales Bay at Walker Creek. ©Richard James - coastodian.org

PROC workers undoing years of neglect in Tomales Bay at Walker Creek.
©Richard James – coastodian.org

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An oyster lease in disarray, leakng plastic into Tomales Bay, the Pacific Ocean. ©Richard James - coastodian.org

An oyster lease in disarray, leakng plastic into Tomales Bay, the Pacific Ocean. ©Richard James – coastodian.org

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An oyster lease tended with pride, showing respect to Tomales Bay. ©Richard James - coastodian.org

An oyster lease tended with pride, showing respect to Tomales Bay. ©Richard James – coastodian.org

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At the same meeting PROC was denied lease renewal, Tomales Bay Oyster Company (TBOC) was given their formal non-renewal (a one year lease extension) for one of their two leases. Since learning of their non-renewal, TBOC has stepped up their efforts in cleaning up the bay in which they make their living.

I applaud and thank TBOC and PROC in stepping up to undo the damage caused by years of shoddy practices. It is my sincere hope each company continues to refine their work practices and strive to grow oysters in a truly responsible, sustainable way.

I also applaud the FGC in not rubber-stamp renewing these leases. Instead, sending a clear message to growers that the public is watching and demanding that growers respect the bay while extracting profit from public waters. They too need to refine their processes, update lease agreements written decades ago, regularly send their staff out to monitor the public lands in their care.

Dept. of Fish & Wildlife staff explained to me that these extensions are for up to 12 months. If these growers can demonstrate by authentic, continual action that they have corrected their many years of neglect in less time, the topic of lease renewal can be brought before the FGC sooner. Let’s hope they do.

This past week has been a huge one. I look forward to reporting on many more successes of a similar nature.

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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 – 37 Tomales Bay Oyster Company pitches in to clean up the bay

Click on the words above “Save our Tomales Bay – 37 Tomales Bay Oyster Company pitches in…” to see this entire post.

Last month the crew over at TBOC took their skiffs around the bay more than once and recovered a large amount of garbage from the shore. Some of these items like the refrigerator and street signs caught my eye long ago. But with my small kayak, there is no way for me to haul them out.

Much thanks to TBOC for patrolling the shore of this precious bay and making a big difference.

All images © TBOC. As always, click on an image to see a larger version.

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water heater, car hood duck hunter boat, plastic of all sorts, street signs - all picked up by TBOC workers Dec. 2015.

water heater, car hood duck hunter boat, plastic of all sorts, street signs – all picked up by TBOC workers Dec. 2015.

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water heater, car hood duck hunter boat, plastic of all sorts, street signs - all picked up by TBOC workers Dec. 2015.

water heater, car hood duck hunter boat, plastic of all sorts, street signs – all picked up by TBOC workers Dec. 2015.

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tires, foam football, plastic of all sorts - all picked up by TBOC workers Dec. 2015.

tires, foam football, plastic of all sorts – all picked up by TBOC workers Dec. 2015.

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Tractor tire, lost oyster gear - all picked up by TBOC workers Dec. 2015.

Tractor tire, lost oyster gear – all picked up by TBOC workers Dec. 2015.

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Abandoned refrigerator picked up by TBOC workers Dec. 2015

Abandoned refrigerator picked up by TBOC workers Dec. 2015

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Tod and a sign of the times - picked up by TBOC workers Dec. 2015

Tod and a sign of the times – picked up by TBOC workers Dec. 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 – 36 Please write Calif. Fish & Game Commission NOW

Oyster farming in Tomales Bay has been taking place for well over one hundred years. The nature of farming oysters means it is often done in hard to get to places, where common citizens seldom venture. During this lengthy time, a variety of growers with varying levels of respect for the environment, and poor to no oversight by the agencies tasked with protecting the coastal waters have left a legacy of trash throughout Tomales Bay that few people know is out there. Look here to see the many messes I speak of.
 

In the coming months, a number of oyster growing leases are up for renewal. It is critical that these leases, written decades ago, be updated to include Best Management Practices and that the loopholes in cleanup escrow accounts be closed so that each lease is clear on how Tomales Bay is to be cared for and the escrow funds can and will be used if need be for cleanup as intended.

 

These requests are not critical of Hog Island Oyster growing practices (whose lease is up for renewal at the 9-10 December CFGC meeting) and are intended as improvements to all leases for all growers. Hog Island is an exceptional grower that works hard to minimize lost gear and reduce the negative impacts of oyster growing on Tomales Bay. We want ALL growers held to the same improved standards and request that all future leases and lease renewals include the following language. Tomales Bay deserves improved protection from all oyster growers.

 

We also want the Fish & Game Commission and Department of Fish & Wildlife to use their role as “landlord” and “law enforcer” more effectively. Updating the lease language is a good first step and shows they intend to represent the best interests of the people of California. If California is to have one agency that both promotes oyster farming, as well as protects nature from oyster farming, that agency needs to take more seriously the protection part of their mission.

 

Lease M-430-15 held by Hog Island Oyster Company is up for renewal at the California Fish & Game Commission (CFGC) meeting in San Diego on 9-10 December.

 

Please write the Executive Director of the CFGC and request that all new leases include the Best Management Practices described here and that loopholes concerning the cleanup escrow account be closed.

 

 

Please write this individual now! He needs to hear from you before these meetings.

Mr. Sonke Mastrup
Executive Director
California Fish and Game Commission
P.O. Box 944209
Sacramento, CA 94244-2090

fgc@fgc.ca.gov
phone 916-653-4899

 

Director Mastrup, please include the following Best Management practices in all new leases, sub-lease agreements and lease renewals.

Best Management Practices Required of Tomales Bay Oyster Farmers

 

  1. Each grower must use uniquely identifiable gear
    Collected abandoned gear must have an easily known owner so that habitual litterers may be dealt with individually. To identify gear, growers must use unique bag colors and unique copper wire colors.

 

  1. Have 2 staff positions whose sole role is litter recovery
    One person that does nothing but litter patrol and cleanup. A second rotating position so that all employees see the issues and learn to reduce litter during daily operations.

 

  1. Growers must continually strive to improve gear design to reduce lost gear
    Conduct yearly meetings with third party monitor(s) to learn what is working, what is not.

 

  1. Replace single-use items such as litter-making zip-ties with reusable items such as stainless halibut clips
    If copper wire is used, each grower has assigned colors. Growers will recover all copper wire once bags are collected at harvest.

 

  1. Prohibit the use of plastic wrapped blue foam and other easily degradable floats
    Floats must be durable and resistant to pecking by birds. Floats must be securely attached to the oyster bag.

 

  1. Prohibit the current practice of tossing out loose bags at high tide
    All bags must be securely connected in a string to prevent drifting and loss during the time between mass deployment and being tied to anchor lines.

 

  1. Prohibit leaving of tools and materials leases, inter-tidal areas, and all nearby areas.
  2. Growers must remove all uninstalled PVC pipes, gloves, zip-ties, copper wire, ropes, hay hooks, bags and water bottles from lease areas each day.

 

  1. If a growing idea does not work, remove it promptly within 30 days.
    Abandoned pilings, posts, PVC, machinery and other debris left in and around Tomales Bay are no longer allowed.

 

  1. At a minimum, growers must ensure monthly patrols of lease areas and shoreline for lost gear
    Patrols will be increased to twice a month during high winds or storm events. Effective patrols must include walking shorelines and wetlands, and kayaks or other craft should be used for hard-to-reach areas to avoid damaging eelgrass with propellers.

 

 

Director Mastrup, please have third party, objective cleanup estiamtes done to determine the actual cleanup cost of all infrastructure used by oyster growers in ALL growing areas of California (Tomales Bay, Morro Bay, Humboldt Bay etc.). The Commission has made promises to address this since April, yet nothing has been communicated to interested parties on any progress in this very important matter.

 

 

Tomales Bay deserves strong protection so that future generations can enjoy this jewel.

Tomales Bay deserves strong protection so that future generations can enjoy this jewel.


 

 

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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 31 Tires do NOT belong in the bay

Click on the text above “Save our Tomales Bay – Part 31 Tires do NOT belong in the bay” to see this entire post.

Today is coastal cleanup day. Good to see people getting out and taking care of the planet.

I usually take this day off from picking up trash.

It would be better if this event took place in December, or January, when the beaches are covered with garbage. Having it in September gives people a false sense of the situation. There is relatively little trash on California beaches in September.

I know, having the masses out on beaches during the stormy months is more hazardous. Well, life, when you live it, is hazardous. So I vote for this event to be on January 19th instead.

We could celebrate my late friend BZM’s birthday too, as opposed to his death on this day in ’99. caaw caaw!

Last week I pulled 4 tires (still on the rim) and one model T style tire (30″ white wall, no rim) out of the bay.
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Plus two oyster grow out bags, courtesy Tomales Bay Oyster Company.

A joyful lunch was then enjoyed, thanks to Monica. Thanks Monica.
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It sure would be great if people stopped tossing their engines, tires, couches and TV’s into Tomales Bay.

Wouldn’t you agree?

Please, when you read this, go find the person nearest you, look them in the eye and say “Please don’t toss any engines, tires, couches or TV’s into Tomales Bay.”

Thanks.

Speaking of tires in Tomales Bay

Who else thinks Tomales Bay would be better off if this garbage at Marconi Cove were removed? By my count there are over 200 tires at this site.

Have a look below, then let me know who we should write to ask about cleaning up this disgraceful situation.

Tomales Bay deserves better than this!

Thanks again.

tires littering Tomales Bay at Marconi Cove.

tires littering Tomales Bay at Marconi Cove.

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tires littering Tomales Bay at Marconi Cove.

tires littering Tomales Bay at Marconi Cove.

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tires littering Tomales Bay at Marconi Cove.

tires littering Tomales Bay at Marconi Cove.

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tires littering Tomales Bay at Marconi Cove.

tires littering Tomales Bay at Marconi Cove.

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tires littering Tomales Bay at Marconi Cove.

tires littering Tomales Bay at Marconi Cove.

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tires littering Tomales Bay at Marconi Cove.

tires littering Tomales Bay at Marconi Cove.

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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.