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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Best Management Practices (BMP) Meeting change of venue, agenda available

All,

A larger room was need to accommodate the growing audience.

New room is named Buck Hall.

Everything else is the same

We also received an agenda today for the meeting on Monday.

Click the blue text for agenda, on window that pops up, click on document to see it.
REVISED Agenda-Map-Bckgrnd BMP stakeholder mtg (17Jul2017 Room change)

Respect Tomales Bay – Stakeholders meeting to discuss Best Management Practices for aquaculture

Click the words above “Respect Tomales Bay – Stakeholders meeting…” to see this entire post.

NOTE: the meeting has moved to a bigger room, see here for details.

The public is invited to a meeting hosted by the California Fish and Game Commission and California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Date: 17 July, 2017

Time: 1 pm

Location: Marconi Conference Center, McCargo Room

New location is Buck Hall

Please RSVP by sending an email to aquaculturematters@wildlife.ca.gov

map below

Here are a set of proposed Best Management Practices (BMP), most of which were submitted to the Fish and Game Commission on 8 April, 2015.

Proposed best practices for Tomales Bay Oyster Farmers

These BMP shall be an integral part of each lease. Mandatory practices meant to ensure Tomales Bay and the ocean in general is kept free of lost plastic from aquaculture practices.

 

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, PVC pipes, rope, “branding info into gear”.

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

3. Growers shall continually improve gear in a quest for zero loss of gear.

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

5. Growers shall NOT use floats that are easily degraded by UV, pecked by birds birds in search of food.

6. Growers shall securely tie large groups of non-floating bags together when deploying bags for future securing to anchor lines lines to ensure they don’t drift.

7. Growers shall remove tools each day after working on lease areas, including: fencepost drivers, gloves, water bottles, PVC pipes, wires, ropes.

8. Growers shall promptly (within 60 days) remove culture structures and other items comprising a method that did not work as desired desired or is no longer used.

9. Growers shall patrol lease areas and eastern shore of Tomales Bay on a bi-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 collected.

10. 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 or number or combinations of these may work.

 

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Respect Tomales Bay 43 – Best Management Practices in the oyster farming industry

Click the words above “Respect Tomales Bay – Best Management Practices” to see this entire post.

First, there is a name change to these related posts about the health & beauty of Tomales Bay.

Initially, I published some words and pictures under the title “Save our Tomales Bay” meant as a parody on the many black & white & blue signs that sprung up along the coast like toadstools a few years back in support of what is now history, except for the mess that still rests on the bottom of Drakes Estero. From now on, these posts will start out with “Respect Tomales Bay”.

Recently I was contacted by an “Oceanic CSA” in Santa Cruz CA looking to add responsibly farmed oysters to their offerings. They’d been reaching out to various oyster farmers in the Tomales Bay area and my name kept coming up. Read about what a CSA is here, and here.

I explained my connection to oyster farming and Tomales Bay as well as who I thought grew oysters responsibly (few), who I thought grew oysters questionably (most).

The caller was most appreciative. I’ve invited their company to a Tomales Bay kayak tour like never before experienced. They accepted.

If oyster growers used gear that was marked to make it easy for an independent observer to identify who was causing problems for the environment (from said gear being let loose on mother earth by wind, wave and poor design/practices) it would be easier to promote responsible growers and to contact those growers in need of improvement to their practices, instead of painting the entire region as mess-makers. Uniquely marked gear has been suggested to the Fish & Game Commission (FGC) for some time now.

The FGC has been mulling over the implementation of Best Management Practices (BMP’s) for at least a year now, likely much longer than that, with little more than meeting agenda items to show for it. I did hear the President of the Dept. of Fish & Wildlife say at the last meeting I attended (Feb 2016 – Sacto) that they need to update the escrow language in the leases, they need to get BMP’s in the leases, and they need to do it right. Let’s hope they also do it soon!

To be fair, The Commission has, at last count three vacancies. Which means more work for the current three commissioners. I wish them the best in filling those vacant seats with capable commissioners. I’ll do all I can to show The Commission what is actually taking place on the oyster leases in California.

You can read about what I suggested as BMP’s in April 2015 here.

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Click on image to see larger version

Tomales Bay at mouth of Walker Creek - public land leased to private companies to grow Japanese oysters, Atlantic oysters, Manilla clams. ©Richard James - coastodian.org

Tomales Bay at mouth of Walker Creek – public land leased to private companies to grow Japanese oysters, Atlantic oysters, Manilla clams.
©Richard James – coastodian.org

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Next related post maybe 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 – 35 Legacy oyster farming trash we want removed NOW.

Highline pilings awaiting removal

Highline pilings awaiting removal

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Highline pilings and rusty iron racks awaiting removal

Highline pilings and rusty iron racks awaiting removal

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Partially removed, still more awaiting removal TBOC

Partially removed, still more awaiting removal TBOC

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Partially removed, still more awaiting removal TBOC

Partially removed, still more awaiting removal TBOC

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Winches from highline awaiting removal

Winches from highline awaiting removal

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Winches from highline awaiting removal

Winches from highline awaiting removal

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150 chemically treated posts from many decades ago near Tom's Point awaiting removal

150 chemically treated posts from many decades ago near Tom’s Point awaiting removal

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Removed! - Thank you Hog Island Oyster Company

Removed! – Thank you Hog Island Oyster Company

Removed! - Thank you TBOC

Removed! – Thank you TBOC

Removed! - Thank you TBOC

Removed! – Thank you TBOC

Removed! - Thank you TBOC

Removed! – Thank you TBOC

Removed! - Thank you TBOC

Removed! – Thank you TBOC

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Removed! - Thank you TBOC

Removed! – Thank you TBOC

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Rusty iron racks litter many parts of Tomales Bay

Rusty iron racks litter many parts of Tomales Bay

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Removed! - Thank you Hog Island Oyster Company

Removed! – Thank you Hog Island Oyster Company

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Failed artificial reefs near Tomassini Point awaiting removal

Failed artificial reefs near Tomassini Point awaiting removal.

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Failed artificial reefs near Tom's Point awaiting removal

Failed artificial reefs near Tom’s Point awaiting removal. Removed – Thank you Sea Grant!

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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.