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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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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Received public comment.

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

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

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

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

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

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Another image from March 14, 2015
©RJames.IMG_0311

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

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©RJames.IMG_3297

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

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

©RJames.IMG_3828

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

©RJames.IMG_5374

©RJames.IMG_5369

©RJames.IMG_5368

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

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

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

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

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IMG_1075

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This bag lay here for less than 3 weeks.

This bag lay here for less than 3 weeks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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 – 40 Point Reyes Oyster Company put on notice – lease not renewed

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

At today’s California Fish & Game Commission meeting the commission voted unanimously to not renew two state water bottom leases operated by Point Reyes Oyster Company (PROC).

The Commission voted to give PROC a one year lease extension instead. This is time for PROC to clean up their mess, improve their processes and show they can grow oysters without damaging Tomales Bay and all that lives in it.

I applaud and thank the commission for taking this action and look forward to working with them as they develop Best Management Practices (BMP) and other lease template improvements to bring their aging lease agreements up to current standards.

Tomales Bay deserves strong protection from businesses profiting from it.

Tomales Bay deserves strong protection from businesses profiting from it.

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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 – 39 Leasewalk M430-17, Point Reyes Oyster Company, a 2nd look

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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This bag lay here for less than 3 weeks.

This bag lay here for less than 3 weeks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Next related post may be found here.

Previous related post may be found here.

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

Save our Tomales Bay – 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 24 Whence cometh the detritus

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

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

Let’s look at this statement in more detail.

Yearly litter pickups.

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

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

This bag lay here for less than three weeks!

This bag lay here for less than three weeks!

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 3rd

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

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

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

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


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

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May 10th

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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Next related post may be found here.

Previous related post may be found here.

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

Save our Tomales Bay – Part 22 Leasewalk M430-17, Point Reyes Oyster Company

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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About 20 pounds of plastic coated copper wire i picked up from under the racks, laying in the mud on lease M-430-17, run by Point Reyes Oyster Company.

About 20 pounds of plastic coated copper wire i picked up from under the racks, laying in the mud on lease M-430-17, run by Point Reyes Oyster Company.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Next related post may be found here.

Previous related post may be found here.

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