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.

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.


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.


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


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.


Debris recovered and removed by TBOC!


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


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


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.


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.

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.


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


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


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


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


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


Action Alert – Transparent, honest coastal protection under attack – write now!

The California coast bears no resemblance to Atlantic City, thankfully.

For good reason.

To keep it this way you need to write governor Brown and chair Gonzalez NOW, see below for details.

For over 40 years, the California Coastal Commission has been tirelessly working to protect this priceless gem from selfish development.

Earlier this year State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson introduced SB-1190 to prohibit private, off-the-record communications with Coastal Commissioners that could influence decision-making.

This important and needed piece of legislation has been shelved by way of some political BS-ery.

Please write Governor Jerry Brown and committee Chair Lorena Gonzalez and tell them you want:

– SB-1190 to be passed

– A ban on ex-parte discussions between anyone and Coastal Commissioners

– Transparency on all Coastal Commission matters


Governor Jerry Brown Phone: (916) 445-2841

Chair Lorena Gonzalez Phone: (916) 319-2080
Twitter: @LorenaAD80 with #saveyourcoast

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon Phone: (916) 319-2063

Please act now!

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If you want the California coast to look like this, do nothing:

Used under Creative Commons license, photo by Bob Jagendorf

Used under Creative Commons license, photo by Bob Jagendorf

If you want the California coast to look more like this, ACT NOW! It won’t protect itself.

Read more about this important matter in the LA Times.


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

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

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

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

A partial listing of who was there:

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

California Coastal Commission [CCC]
County Health Department

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

Numerous local citizens

Media representatives

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

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

A group discussion followed.

Important items that I came home with:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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.