Best Management Practices for California aquaculture – still waiting for them…

Below you will find an update on my ongoing efforts to protect Tomales Bay from the historically poor practices of shellfish growers, and a long history of virtually no oversight by the California Department of Fish & Wildlife (CDFW) and the California Fish & Game Commission (CFGC). The CFGC leases state water bottoms in California to shellfish growers. Given the shortage of suitable coastline with clean water, you’d think the CFGC would be charging a premium rent (supply and demand). You would be wrong. More on that in a future post.

If you care for Tomales Bay and want to protect it, please write the following people and tell them to implement and enforce strong Best Management Practices over shellfish growers. Tell them to fix the woefully inadequate escrow cleanup bond system. And kindly ask them to make a better effort at enforcing existing litter laws and to regularly monitor aquaculture statewide. Our state bays and estuaries are priceless treasures for ALL to enjoy.

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

Susan Ashcraft – Marine Advisor to the California Fish & Game Commission (CFGC) – Sacramento, CA Susan.Ashcraft@fgc.ca.gov

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Responsibly practiced shellfish aquaculture, properly sited, adds value to life in the form of delicious shellfish, jobs and the continuation of a long tradition. Authentic stewardship is paramount to assuring this practice does no harm to the precious bays and estuaries of the ever changing (and rising) sea.

Three things I have been requesting since I set out to right numerous wrongs are:

1) Growers need to stop losing so much plastic, wood and other gear. They also need to regularly pick up the debris that they do lose. All of the legacy debris left by growers from days gone by needs to be removed from the bay.

2)      A. Best Management Practices (BMP) need to be developed and become an   enforceable part of being allowed to profit from public trust tidelands.

2)      B. The cleanup fund escrow system to address abandoned infrastructure and other damages done to a lease needs to be redone so that it is actually applied, AND is not based on cost estimates made by the growers themselves.

3) CFGC and CDFW need to actually DO their job: regular monitoring of leases, enforce existing laws, ensure growers are not diverting creeks with un-permitted structures or altering the bay-floor by dumping large quantity of oyster shells or other materials into the bay.

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Let’s look at each of these in more detail.

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1) Growers need to stop losing so much plastic, wood and other gear. They also need to regularly pick up the debris that they do lose. All of the legacy debris left by growers from days gone by needs to be removed from the bay.

This is taking place. The growers are losing less gear and making a noticeable effort to pick up that gear still getting loose.

There is still room for improvement, as bags and other culturing devices are still getting loose. But overall, a vast improvement!

Thank you growers!

Unfortunately, much of the legacy debris continues to blight the beauty of Tomales Bay. You can see what I am talking about here.

2-A Best Management Practices (BMP) need to be developed and become an   enforceable part of being allowed to profit from public trust tidelands.

On April 8, 2015 (1087 days ago and counting), a proposed list of BMP that I drafted were delivered to the CFGC at their commission meeting in Santa Rosa. The growers and numerous agencies have mulled over and massaged this list since then.

The latest revision put forth by the CFGC is very close to what I originally proposed, except it does not include that growers must mark all their gear with their name & phone number. Marking all gear is important in order to ensure growers practice authentic stewardship.

My most recent iteration of what I think are good common sense BMP are below.

 

These BMPs shall be an integral part of each lease. The practices shall be mandatory practices meant to ensure Tomales Bay and the ocean in general is kept free of lost plastic and other debris from aquaculture operations.

To have the intended effect of reducing litter in Tomales Bay attributed to aquaculture, it is imperative that these practices be adequately and regularly enforced.

Harming the environment is a criminal matter, not an administrative matter.

 

  1. Growers shall uniquely and clearly identify all of their gear with company name and phone number. Possible means of uniquely marking gear include: unique colors of bags, wires, tags, PVC pipes, rope, and “branding info into gear.”

 

  1. Growers shall train all employees in concepts of Leave No Trace, see http://LNT.org, or similar training about environmental stewardship.

 

  1. Growers shall continually improve gear and methods in a quest to lose less gear.

 

  1. Growers shall replace single use items (i.e. zip-ties, copper wires) with more durable items such as stainless halibut clips.

 

  1. Growers shall NOT use floats that are easily degraded by sunlight or pecked by birds in search of food.

 

  1. Growers shall securely tie large groups of non-floating bags together when deploying bags for future securing to anchor lines to ensure they do not drift.

 

  1. Growers shall remove all tools and materials each day after working on lease areas, including: fencepost drivers, gloves, water bottles, PVC pipes, wires, and ropes. Work barges shall be secured to ensure items are not blown into the bay.

 

  1. Growers shall NOT dump shells, lumber, bags or other debris on the bay floor to walk upon or for any reason.

 

  1. Growers shall promptly (within 90 days) remove culture structures and other items comprising a method that did not work as desired or is no longer used.

 

  1. Growers shall patrol lease areas and the shores of Tomales Bay on a monthly basis, twice monthly during windy or heavy surf times. Patrols must occur at both high and low tides to ensure gear buried in the mud is promptly collected.

 

  1. Growers shall uniquely and clearly identify all of their boats and barges. Boats should be clearly identifiable with binoculars from a distance of 1 mile. Unique color, large letter and/or number or combinations of these may work.

 

To support item 11 above, the below images show some of the boats used by various growers. Notice how many of the boats look identical. Also shown is one suggested ID method to allow distant observers to know which grower a particular boat belongs to. Also, how many of these boats are properly licensed?

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The reason for my concern centers on the damage done to the eel grass beds on or near the leases. Below are three images recorded from overhead, showing deep and permanent damage done to the eel grass by the propellers of boats accessing the lease areas.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

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On numerous occasions I have witnessed oyster boats operating at low tides, attempting to access areas of the bay not deep enough to access without driving the prop of the boat into the bottom of the bay, destroying everything that the prop meets, like a blender, loudly throwing a tall, brown rooster-tail into the air, easily visible/audible from a mile+ away.

If boats were clearly labeled, interested stakeholders would be able to give the Commission/Department accurate information with which to hopefully take action.

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The below images show the reasoning behind item 8.

Growers shall NOT dump shells, lumber, bags or other debris on the bay floor to walk upon or for any reason.

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2-B The cleanup fund escrow system to address abandoned infrastructure needs to be redone so that it is actually applied, AND is not based on cost estimates made by the growers themselves.

The figure below (from K. Ramey files acquired via Public Records Access [PRA]) shows how much has been contributed (allegedly) by each grower. Total on account (allegedly) is $106,255.

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Click on the image to enlarge it.

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Below is an image showing part of the main contract paid by the NPS for the cleanup of aquaculture debris left by DBOC in Drakes Estero. This is not the entire sum. Beyond the $3,460,750 shown below were other substantial fees associated with the removal of oysters and clams left by DBOC.

Important to note is the self-assessed cleanup cost given to the Fish & Game Commission by DBOC for two years running: $10,000

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Click on the image to enlarge it.

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Below are images of some current leases, showing rough dimensions as well as the amount paid into the escrow fund.

These values are self-assessed cost estimates provided by the growers.

Have you ever been asked by a landlord how much of a cleaning deposit you think you ought to pay?

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3) CFGC and CDFW need to actually DO their job: regular monitoring of leases, enforce existing laws, ensure growers are not diverting creeks with un-permitted structures or altering the bay-floor by dumping large quantity of oyster shells or other materials into the bay.

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This request needs no further support.

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The slide seen below was created by the State Aquaculture Coordinator.
The yellow text I have highlighted reads: “Emphasize CA’s strict environmental standards as advantage”

How can one have an advantage based on strict standards if the laws those standards are based on are not enforced?

Please enforce current laws!

Click image to enlarge it.

If you care for Tomales Bay and want to protect it, please write the following people and tell them to implement and enforce strong Best Management Practices over shellfish growers. Tell them to fix the woefully inadequate escrow cleanup bond system. And kindly ask them to make a better effort at enforcing existing litter laws and to regularly monitor aquaculture statewide. Our state bays and estuaries are priceless treasures for ALL to enjoy.

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

Susan Ashcraft – Marine Advisor to the California Fish & Game Commission (CFGC) – Sacramento, CA Susan.Ashcraft@fgc.ca.gov

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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

Save our Tomales Bay – 38 Hog Island Oyster, TBOC efforts pay off

Click on the words above “Save our Tomales Bay – 38 Hog Island…” to see this entire post

It had been a few months since I had walked the shore from Preston Point to the Audubon land near Tom’s Point.

25 December was a perfect day to go boating on the bay to enjoy the enormous bird population and scenic landscapes & waterscapes. It would also be a good day to clean up the mess made by oyster farming. In past years I have found 40, 50, 70, once I found over 150 abandoned oyster grow out bags on shore, buried in mud in a channel and in the pickleweed at the mouth of Walker Creek.

I am pleased to report on the 25th I found only 11 bags!
NOTE: Due to time constraints, this was not as thorough a job as I usually do, so this number is likely low.

But this is an enormous improvement from the past two years and I commend the growers, especially Hog Island and TBOC for their improved practices in reducing lost equipment.

Equally good is that I found zero large black zip ties in an area I usually find from 15-30 each visit. Zero!

Below are maps showing some, not all, of my cleanup efforts in this area of Tomales Bay.
The first map is from 25 December, 2015, subsequent maps go back in time to 12 October, 2013.

The yellow push-pin denotes where I found one or more oyster or clam grow-out bags.

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

Soon I hope to be able to share good news (for the environment) regarding how leases to grow shellfish in California waters are structured. In the meantime, enjoy the progress being made by local growers towards actually growing food in a sustainable manner!

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G 11 Oyster Bags found 2015.12.25

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F 46 Oyster Bags found 2015.03.06

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E 75 Oyster Bags found 2015.02.15

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D 68 Oyster Bags found 2015.01.17

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C 40 Oyster Bags found 2014.03.15

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B 33 Oyster Bags found 2014.01.26

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A 67 Oyster Bags found 2013.10.12

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The images below show three of the hundreds of tiny pools found all around Walker Creek.
Last year, these same pools would be full of abandoned grow out bags.
These plastic free pools are a sight for sore eyes.

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Nature with no plastic. Yes please!

Nature with no plastic. Yes please!

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Nature with no plastic. Yes please!

Nature with no plastic. Yes please!

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Nature with no plastic. Yes please!

Nature with no plastic. Yes please!

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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 26 Good news and great news

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

Boated out to Tom’s Point on Saturday to pull ice plant and pick up trash.

The good news is I only found four grow out bags, three from Hog Island and one purse-type bag from another grower, a type I have never found loose before. Had that purse been uniquely labeled, I, and anyone else out picking up trash would know exactly whose gear it was and we could contact the owner about it. This is good news because usually I find dozens, or even hundreds of abandoned grow out bags in this area.

One reason I found so few is because the tide was high, so I was not able to pull what are usually, but not always legacy trash from many years ago.
Rather, I only scanned the shore. Still, finding only three bags is a great sign. Because fewer bags getting lost means fewer bags to become buried in the mud or plant-life, never to be seen again.

A likely reason I found only three bags can be found in the next paragraph.

The great news is I found four Hog Island workers out walking the beaches with bags in hand, picking up trash!

I was pleasantly amazed.

Spoke with two of them, shared info on where I find particular items and thanked them again and again.

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Hog Island Oyster worker on trash patrol, Tom's Point - Tomales Bay

Hog Island Oyster worker on trash patrol, Tom’s Point – Tomales Bay

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When I explained the large wooden rack mess left in place by the brother of Charlie Johnson (who long ago raised oysters in this area) to one of them, he said that Hog might be interested in removing the hundreds of vertical pilings from the bay. I told him that the NPS was in the process of hiring a firm to remove over 5 lineal miles of racks from Drakes Estero and that the techniques learned would likely be transferable.

These Hog guys told me they had been coming out every two weeks for a while now, which is fantastic.

Come winter time, with harsher weather, this schedule will really pay off in keeping lost gear from being entombed in the wetlands and bay bottom, or pulled out into the Pacific Ocean.

A great day indeed.

Prediction: more jobs at oyster farms as the importance of regularly patrolling the shores of the bay, as well as the lease and non-lease areas of the bay become evident.

So stoked was I, that the next nearly 3 hours was spent pulling out one of several large plots of invasive ice plant, creating a pile almost six feet high for the Audubon people that own the land.

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

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Large pile of ice plant pulled out by one coastodian

Large pile of ice plant pulled out by one coastodian

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Large pile of ice plant pulled out by one coastodian

Large pile of ice plant pulled out by one coastodian

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View of Tomales Bay from Tom's Point

View of Tomales Bay from Tom’s Point

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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 23 Bullshitter caught in the act!

Click on the words above “Save our Tomales Bay – Part 23 Bullshitter caught in the act!” to see this entire post.

On 16 May as I walked the shore near Tom’s Point and the oyster leases operated by Hog Island Oysters picking up zip-ties, grow out bags, discarded lumber and the occasional piece of non-oyster related trash, I was startled as this large bull burst forth on the hillside above me.

He snorted and stared at me, making sure I knew whose beach this was.

Then he sauntered off into the water, defecated, continuing on around this very long fence jutting out into Tomales Bay.

When the scent of lady cows in estrus is in the air, no string of wire will keep this bull from his appointed rounds.

Maybe that brownish/yellowish stuff is what give the local oysters their shittoir.

Off in the distance in this video are strings of hundreds of bags of oysters filter-feeding in the nutrient-rich waters of Tomales Bay.

It is not just the guys pooping in our local waters.

Have a look at these ladies that regularly relieve themselves in and around Drakes Estero (image from a few years ago)

RJames.IMG_4541.CC.cwRJames.IMG_4560.crop.cc.cwIs this the secret ingredient of the non-native oysters that were once raised in Drakes Estero?

 

Speaking of bullshit, stay tuned for more images of the steady supply of plastic left in Tomales Bay by oyster farmers of present and past.

Local growers are making efforts to reduce the debris abandoned to the watershed. I applaud and encourage these and more efforts.

Enough of an effort?

Perhaps when the Fish & Game Commission hosts the public meeting in West Marin they promised me is coming, we’ll all find out.

Until then, let the chips fall where they may.

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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 19, Abandoned oyster bags, same as it ever was

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

Last week, in addition to monitoring the progress of the removal of the illegal dike along Walker Creek as it enters Tomales Bay, I engaged in a regular activity when boating on Tomales Bay, picking up abandoned oyster grow-out bags.

This day I found nearly fifty. The map below shows where I found the bags this day, as well as where I left them piled up (see red arrows).

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coastodian cleanup map from 2015.03.06

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A map showing the location of the bags where found, as well as where I stacked them so that the growers might come out and recover them will be posted here on Friday [I neglected to upload it along with the images of the trash].

The images that follow show that many of these bags have been there for weeks, or months. One sees pickleweed or salt grass growing through the bag, holding it tightly in place, where, if it were not for me to yank it out of the vegetation, it would likely become part of the environment forever.

This speaks to the urgent need of the growers to do weekly patrols of their leases and a large area near the leases to recover the scores and scores of bags that go missing each week.

The banner image shows the many pieces of plastic coated wire carelessly dropped to the mud after serving the needs of the short-sighted oyster farmer. Note that the plastic insulation has begun disintegrating. This plastic will eventually enter the food chain of the very oysters being raised.

You can see a larger version of the wire image below. These wires were collected in less than 15 minutes as I walked along two rows of rusting iron racks that once held oysters in place to feed on the algae. These two rows were a fraction of the total rows of racks. So what you see is a tiny fraction of the plastic coated copper wire dropped as so much litter. These racks are located in the area leased by Point Reyes Oyster Company, lease M-430-17.

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

long ago abandoned grow-out bag

long ago abandoned grow-out bag

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bundle of 17 bags abandoned north of Walker Cr., east of Preston Point

bundle of 17 bags abandoned north of Walker Cr., east of Preston Point

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bundle of 17 bags abandoned north of Walker Cr., east of Preston Point

bundle of 17 bags abandoned north of Walker Cr., east of Preston Point

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Stanway rack board, I find these all over Tomales Bay, used primarily by Hog Island Oysters

Stanway rack board, I find these all over Tomales Bay, used primarily by Hog Island Oysters

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Abandoned 25" TV tube, full of lead

Abandoned 25″ TV tube, full of lead

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TV inner workings

TV inner workings

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TV inner workings

TV inner workings

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RJames-1397

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RJames-1398

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RJames-1399

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RJames-1400

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RJames-1401

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RJames-1402

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RJames-1403

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deteriorating plastic-coated copper wire recovered from Point Reyes Oyster Company lease

deteriorating plastic-coated copper wire recovered from Point Reyes Oyster Company lease

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deteriorating plastic-coated copper wire recovered from Point Reyes Oyster Company lease

deteriorating plastic-coated copper wire recovered from Point Reyes Oyster Company lease

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deteriorating plastic-coated copper wire recovered from Point Reyes Oyster Company lease

deteriorating plastic-coated copper wire recovered from Point Reyes Oyster Company lease

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deteriorating plastic-coated copper wire recovered from Point Reyes Oyster Company lease

deteriorating plastic-coated copper wire recovered from Point Reyes Oyster Company lease

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deteriorating plastic-coated copper wire recovered from Point Reyes Oyster Company lease

deteriorating plastic-coated copper wire recovered from Point Reyes Oyster Company lease

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This bundle of Tomales Bay Oyster Company bags was found a 1/2 mile up Walker Creek buried in the mud mid-channel, east of the Tomales Bay Oyster Company lease

This bundle of Tomales Bay Oyster Company bags was found a 1/2 mile up Walker Creek buried in the mud mid-channel, east of the Tomales Bay Oyster Company lease

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IMG_1382.cw

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 Tomales Bay Oyster Company workers leave these hay hooks all over the place in Tomales Bay, I find them in the mud, rusted in half, or whole like this one

Tomales Bay Oyster Company workers leave these hay hooks all over the place in Tomales Bay, I find them in the mud, rusted in half, or whole like this one

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PVC pipe, grow-out bag and rope collected on or near the Tomales Bay Oyster Company lease

PVC pipe, grow-out bag and rope collected on or near the Tomales Bay Oyster Company lease

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PVC pipe, grow-out bag and rope collected on or near the Tomales Bay Oyster Company lease

PVC pipe, grow-out bag and rope collected on or near the Tomales Bay Oyster Company lease

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PVC pipes, nearly buried in the mud. The TBOC leases have these pipes in varying states of buried-ness ALL OVER their leases.

PVC pipes, nearly buried in the mud. The TBOC leases have these pipes in varying states of buried-ness ALL OVER their leases.

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RJames-1404

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RJames-1405

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RJames-1406

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RJames-1407

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RJames-1408

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RJames-1409

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RJames-1410

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Abandoned bag, buried in the mud. There are likely thousands of these buried beneath the mud surface

Abandoned bag, buried in the mud. There are likely thousands of these buried beneath the mud surface

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RJames-1412

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Abandoned bag, buried in the mud. There are likely thousands of these buried beneath the mud surface

Abandoned bag, buried in the mud. There are likely thousands of these buried beneath the mud surface

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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.