Our mission is to protect the habitat of Puget Sound tidelands from the underregulated expansion of new and intensive shellfish aquaculture methods. These methods were never anticipated when the Shoreline Management Act was passed. They are transforming the natural tideland ecosystems in Puget Sound and are resulting in a fractured shoreline habitat. In South Puget Sound much of this has been done with few if any meaningful shoreline permits and with limited public input. It is exactly what the Shoreline Management Act was intended to prevent.

Get involved and contact your elected officials to let them you do not support aquaculture's industrial transformation of Puget Sound's tidelands.

Governor Inslee:

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Why Does Drakes Estero Matter to the East Coast Shellfish Growers Association?

And why should you care?
Drakes Estero, Part of
Point Reyes National Seashore

Recently the East Coast Shellfish Growers Association (ECSGA) Director Bob Rheault sent out an email to members describing the National Park Services as being on a "crusade" to eliminate a commercial shellfish operation and having "fabricated evidence and harassed good, hard-working people in their effort to eliminate 60 jobs and half of California's oyster production."

"used against our industry for decades to come."
His real concern wasn't about jobs or the operation. It was about the EIS showing the very real adverse impacts the shellfish operation was having, and would continue to have, on the wilderness shoreline area of Drakes Estero. More important to Mr. Rheault was that information would be "used against our industry for decades to come."  [click here for the EIS]

Invasive Tunicates on Drakes Bay Oysters

Wilderness and the Lunny Family
When the Lunny family purchased the commercial operation they made a tactical business decision which included trying to convince the National Park Service they should renew a lease which they knew expired in 2012. They were aware the National Park Service did not consider the commercial shellfish operation fitting within the definition of "wilderness" and operations would cease.

Debris from the Commercial Operation

Established by Congress in 1964, the National Wilderness Preservation System was created to ensure some areas would be preserved and protected in their natural condition for the permanent good of the people. These areas would be designated wilderness areas, further defined as "an area of undeveloped Federal land retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions." In 1976 it was decided that an area on Point Reyes, making up over 33,000 acres, would be designated "wilderness" or "potential wilderness", including Drakes Estero. Part of that decision included "efforts to steadily continue to remove all obstacles to the eventual conversion of these lands and waters to wilderness status." A major obstacle in achieving this goal was the shellfish operation whose lease expired in 2012.

Drakes Bay Oyster Company

In business there is risk. Sometimes it is out of our control. Sometimes it is within our control. When the Lunny Family purchased the commercial shellfish operation they were fully aware of the risk, including the fact that the lease expired in 2012. Their hope was they would be able to muster allies, including members of the shellfish industry, to help convince the Federal Government that somehow their commercial operation did, in fact, fit the definition of "wilderness." It does not.

Why the Shellfish Industry Cares so Much
As part of the decision process which the National Park Service used, an Environmental Impact Statement was required. In that EIS the NPS analyzed the various alternatives and what impacts those alternatives contained. Included in that analysis were impacts from the non-native Pacific Oyster and Manila Clam encroaching into native species' habitat; spreading of the non-native tunicate Didemnum vexillum from the shellfish farm operation; noise; visual; and erosion/accretion from the various structures used by the operation. The EIS was clear in its conclusions about the continued operation:
  • It would result in long-term unavoidable adverse impacts on eelgrass, wetlands, wildlife and wildlife habitat (benthic fauna, fish, and birds) due to continued disturbance of sediments in Drakes Estero by another 10 years of DBOC (Drakes Bay Oyster Company)  motorboat use.
  • Long-term unavoidable adverse impacts to the benthic fauna would result from the continued cultivation of nonnative species (Pacific oysters and Manila clams...) in Drakes Estero. [adverse impacts included were the establishment of nonnative breeding populations; substrate for the establishment and spread of the nonnative invasive tunicate Didemnum vexillum; and, adverse impacts on eelgrass]
  • Noise would disrupt the bilogical activity of birds, such as foraging and resting behavior, potentially leading to a reduction in fitness and reproductive success. 
  • The NPS would be unable to create the congressionally designated wilderness area.

Why does it matter to Puget Sound?
NOAA and Governor Gregoire, through lobbying from the shellfish industry at a national and state level, have created the National and State Shellfish Initiatives. Through these programs, immense pressure is being put on agencies to allow for the significant expansion of the shellfish industry along the shorelines and in the waters of Puget Sound. Primary species supported by the programs include the nonnative Pacific oysters and Manila clams, noted in the EIS as having a long-term and significant adverse impact, as well as the nonnative Gallo mussel. In addition, geoduck are being planted in densities and in areas they do not naturally grow, higher in the tidelands, through the use of PVC structures and "nurseries."

"The Wild Olympics are our common ground.
But the tidelands are mine."
At the same time, there is a major effort being put forth to create a "Wild Olympics" which would expand the wilderness on the Olympic Peninsula. Not yet included in that effort is the recognition that tidelands play as important a role, if not more so, than the rivers and forests being proposed for inclusion. Instead, these tidelands are being looked at as "shellfish factories" which the proposed wilderness areas will protect. In that function they are being smothered with grow-out bags; filled with PVC pipes, placed every square foot; and covered with netting. All altering the habitat supporting native species.

The nearshore environment is being impacted by far more than upland development. It is now the shellfish industry which is being brought under scrutiny, as it should be. The tone and attitude are reflected in the following email sent to the East Coast Shellfish Growers Association. Will this attitude and tone be what guides the decision on Drakes Estero and the future of Puget Sound's tidelands?

(From Bob Rheault, Executive Director of the East Coast Shellfish Growers Association to its members)

for the past five years I have periodically shared with you the tawdry details of the crusade by the National Park service to eliminate the oyster farm in Drakes Estero outside San Francisco. The NPS has falsified data, hidden exculpatory evidence, fabricated evidence and harassed good, hard-working people in their effort to eliminate 60 jobs and half of California's oyster production.

In what should beheld up as a sterling example of sustainable food production in harmony with nature, we see instead a farm being vilified by misguided government scientists and administrators.

What is worse is that the shoddy, misleading "science" being used to vilify these good people will be used against our industry for decades to come. We must stand up and defend these guys. We have evidence of fraud, data manipulation, incompetence, violations of national scientific integrity policies. Yet the NPS refuses to pull any of their discredited publications down.

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