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

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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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Rescue training on Tomales Bay using helicopter

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Looking down towards the dock at Dillon Beach a few hours ago, saw a large helo hovering.

Closer inspection revealed a gaggle of large jet skis and several “victims” awaiting rescue.

Glad to know they keep their skills honed.

Thank you rescue team!

As always, click on an image for a larger version.
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Water rescue training off Dillon Beach

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Water rescue training off Dillon Beach

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Water rescue training off Dillon Beach

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Water rescue training off Dillon Beach

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Water rescue training off Dillon Beach

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Water rescue training off Dillon Beach

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Water rescue training off Dillon Beach

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Birds of Tomales Bay – Greater Scaup

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Tomales Bay is covered with rafts of ducks lately.

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Venturing north along route 1 one can see numerous groups of diving ducks, huddled, nervous, searching for food.

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If you look closely at the left edge of the image below, you’ll see a pale bird, second from the left with a spray of water kicked up behind it from a bird that just dived under.

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That is a leucitic hen. She lacks pigment in her feathers, hence she is more pale than the rest. Leucism is different than albinism. You can read about that here. And see a wide variety of leucitic animals here.

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Enjoy some more images below. Better yet, head outside and take a gander yourself. There is nothing better than the real thing. As always, click on an image to see a larger version.

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Cows over Tomales

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Mixed weather and a back still on the mend from a bad strain 3 weeks ago means a day of exploration.

Today I drove up a road I’ve driven past hundreds of times and met several cows and a sweet view of the bay.

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Cows over Tomales Bay
©Richard James – coastodian.org

Cows over Tomales Bay
©Richard James – coastodian.org

Cows over Tomales Bay
©Richard James – coastodian.org

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Geoduck clam cultivation in Puget Sound, is Tomales Bay next?

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I support responsible, sustainable shellfish aquaculture, practiced in the public waters by authentic stewards of the land and sea.

The recent application from San Andreas Shellfish of Dillon Beach to cultivate, among other species Geoduck Clams in Tomales Bay is cause for concern.

Read about the lease application process here.

Citizens of the Puget Sound area have for many years been working hard to protect their beautiful coastal seascape from commercial geoduck clam cultivation. This practice, quite profitable to some, pollutes far and wide, contributing significant amounts of plastic to an already toxic sea, as well as turning an otherwise sublime natural scene, into a dystopian nightmare.

The images that follow show what the practice of geoduck clam cultivation does to the environment. Do these images portray authentic stewardship?

Tomales Bay is already significantly degraded by the current and past practice of oyster, clam and mussel cultivation. Over 140 years of aquaculture have left a deep, disgraceful legacy in Tomales Bay. Before any new leases are approved, the California Fish & Game Commission and California Department of Fish & Wildlife shall clean up the tons of debris littering the bay, the Oyster Farming Legacy (OFL – rhymes with awful).

See the OFL still polluting Tomales Bay here.

If you feel strongly about protecting the unique beauty of Tomales Bay, please write the following people and let them know you want them to clean up the Oyster Farming Legacy trash blighting Tomales Bay before any new leases are approved.

Diane Windham – Southwest Regional Aquaculture Coordinator, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) – Sacramento, CA
diane.windham@noaa.gov

Randy Lovell – State Aquaculture Coordinator – ‎California Dept of Fish & Wildlife (CDFW) – Sacramento, CA
randy.lovell@wildlife.ca.gov

Valerie Termini – Executive Director of California Fish & Game Commission (CFGC) – Sacramento, CA
fgc@fgc.ca.gov

Click on an image to see a larger version.
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Image courtesy http://coalitiontoprotectpugetsoundhabitat.org

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Image courtesy http://coalitiontoprotectpugetsoundhabitat.org

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Image courtesy http://coalitiontoprotectpugetsoundhabitat.org

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Image courtesy http://coalitiontoprotectpugetsoundhabitat.org

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Image courtesy http://coalitiontoprotectpugetsoundhabitat.org

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Image courtesy http://coalitiontoprotectpugetsoundhabitat.org

High pressure water jets are used to liquify the substrate to loosen the clam for harvest. Damaging or destroying any other organisms in the area.

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Image courtesy http://coalitiontoprotectpugetsoundhabitat.org

High pressure water jets are used to liquify the substrate to loosen the clam for harvest. Damaging or destroying any other organisms in the area.

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Image courtesy http://coalitiontoprotectpugetsoundhabitat.org

What Puget Sound looks like after harvest is complete.

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New Application to cultivate Shellfish in Tomales Bay

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On Thursday February 9th at a regular meeting of the California Fish & Game Commission (CFGC) in Rohnert Park, the CFGC received an application from Robert Brodsky and his company, San Andreas Shellfish. The application is to lease, from the public trust, approximately 45 acres of state water bottoms for the cultivation of shellfish within Tomales Bay. The application may be viewed here.

Below you can see one of the maps from the application that shows the area the application wishes to lease in bright yellow, superimposed upon a photograph of the area from above.

To see a larger version, click the image, on new page click the “1981×1180” above image and below the word donate

The general area up for consideration in the lease is the eastern portion of the bay between Tom’s Point and Lawson’s Landing.

The species which Mr. Brodsky would like to be able to cultivate are: Pacific Oyster, Atlantic Oyster, Kumamoto Oyster, Mediterranean Mussels, Goeduck Clam and Purple Hinged Scallop.

If granted, the lease could be a maximum of 25 years, per Fish and Game Code 15405.

Before a lease is granted, the following must occur:

1 The CFGC will refer the application to the California Department of Fish & Wildlife (CDFW). CDFW will evaluate the application and make a recommendation on whether or not the proposed activities are in the public interest (per Fish and Game Code 15404)

Once the evaluation is complete, the CDFW will provide a recommendation to the Commission.

2 CFGC will place the item on the agenda of the next CFGC meeting. The public will be able to comment on the item at this time regarding public interest.

If the CFGC determines that the area applied for is available for lease and that the lease would be in the public interest, CFGC shall publish a notice that the area is being considered for leasing. No aquaculture lease for state water bottoms will be approved until the Commission has held a public hearing at least 90 days after notice thereof has been published in a newspaper of general circulation within the county involved.

In addition, California requires state and local agencies to perform environmental impact analyses when granting permits. Potential environmental impacts are addressed primarily through the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review of the proposed facility. Although not a permit, CEQA compliance is mandatory for state, local, and other agencies subject to the jurisdiction of California to evaluate the environmental implications of their actions.

After the CEQA process is complete, the CFGC will again:
3 Place the item on the agenda of a CFGC meeting where the Public may comment on the CEQA evaluation and final approval of the lease.

At this time, the CFGC will make a decision on whether to certify the CEQA document and whether to approve the lease.

Should a lease be approved, the applicant will also need a variety of permits and other authorizations, including from the Coastal Commission and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

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Read the next related post on this topic here.

Crab fisherman on strike for $3 a pound, should hold out for $6! Seafood tax a healthy idea.

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Another crab season is upon us, like last year it is far from “normal”. But then again, with respect to the global environment, normal is undergoing radical changes.

Last year the season was delayed for months due to toxic levels of domoic acid in crab flesh (along with many other sea creatures).

This year the agency tasked with regulating crab fishing, the California Department of Fish & Wildlife has sequentially opened small regions of the California Coast to fishing as domoic acid levels drop below safe thresholds.

Instead of one price negotiation at the beginning of the season, wholesale buyers have decided to hold new talks for each region that opens up for fishing.

Bodega Bay fisherman are none too happy about this and have gone on strike. Fisherman want $3 a pound, buyers are offering $2.75 a pound.

Crab fishing is a boom and bust proposition, a few good years followed by a few not so good years. Fisherman try to offset these declines with a good salmon season, though “good salmon season” is a bit of a contradiction in terms of late.

Humans have for decades damned rivers, denying these ancient fish the spawning grounds they need, diverted water from rivers to give farmers water so they can grow almonds, cotton, pistachios and other high margin crops in what was originally the California desert. Pesticide and Herbicide use, clear-cut logging and creek-side construction have further degraded the environment to the point of near extinction for many historically huge salmon runs.

Both Salmon runs and crab populations are under attack, by humans!

Instead of asking for $3 a pound, I advocate crab fisherman hold out for $6.

Give fisherman $3 for each pound and put the other $3 into a fund used to undo the damage we humans inflict on the sea with our insatiable appetite for, well, damn near everything.

Think of it like a carbon tax. The new crab tax.

Set aside money for people like myself and the legions of others that walk our beaches picking up the mess of plastic ropes, plastic bait jars, plastic foam floats, crab traps left on our beaches each crab season to be ground in to a plastic soup by wave action. A soup that becomes part of the food chain of the planet See this post from two years ago for images of what crab fishing does to Point Reyes National Seashore each year.

Human trash collected from Point Reyes beaches during six visits

Research on how to collect crabs without endangering whales could be funded with this crab tax.

Humpback Whale entangled in crab fishing gear Photo: E. Lyman/HWS and NOAA

Humpback Whale entangled in crab fishing gear

Thankfully California has for the first time enacted a law that allows crab fisherman to collect abandoned gear after the season closes to reduce these horrible entanglements (and often deaths) caused to whales and other sea-life.

Reports of recent entanglements:

After huge blue whale gets tangled in crab lines, Californians struggle with elaborate rescue mission

Daring rescue of whale off Farallones

While we are thinking clearly and proposing that human harvesting activities pay the true cost to the planet, let’s double the price of salmon and oysters, clams and mussels. Set aside money to be used to clean up the messes we have made, and then figure out how to stop making new messes as we feed ourselves.

Four damns are soon to come down on the Klammath River, opening up over 300 miles of historic spawning grounds to a salmon run completely wiped out 80 years ago. Let’s restore the natural river habitat that nature found worked, instead of trying to use science to build fast growing salmon.
Another view of this troubling news here.

In a few months the California Dept. of Fish & Wildlife will be holding a meeting to discuss Best Management Practices (BMP) for oyster growers in California. A long needed set of common sense rules for an industry that has historically been operated in a “wild west” sense, with lax or little oversight. Please watch this space for an announcement on where and when that meeting takes place so you can voice your support for common sense rules in all leases for use of public lands/waters to profit by private companies. Send me your email address if you’d like to be notified.

Let’s make sure that Tomales Bay looks more like this

Great and snowy egrets in flight. Tomales Bay, mouth of Walker Creek.

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Instead of this

abandoned plastic trays

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Tomales Bay Triptych

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Click on an image to see a larger version.

Oyster workers tend to bags of oysters growing on the mudflats of Tomales Bay near the mouth of Walker Creek. ©Richard James

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A lone photographer at work on the mudflats ©Richard James

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Sunlight refracted by raindrops, otherwise known as a rainbow over the hills east of Tomales Bay ©Richard James

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Birders of Tomales Bay – 2016 Christmas Bird Count

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Today was the 47th annual Point Reyes Christmas Bird Count.

Today was the 1st annual Point Reyes Birdcounter Count.

Word at the dinner (unofficial) was 196 species of birds were spotted today.
I saw a few dozen Birdcounters, in a variety of plumage.

Enjoy.

Click on an image to see a larger version.

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