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:

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Drakes Bay Oyster Company Court Hearing January 25

"Will you be having Tea with your oysters?"

January 25, lawyers supported by Washington D.C.'s Cause of Action, an advocacy group with ties to the Koch Brothers, Darrell Issa, and Tea Party politics, will argue in U.S. District Court before Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers in Oakland that Drakes Bay Oyster Company should be allowed to stay in operation until a court challenge to their lease expiration may be decided. [click here for article on Cause of Action] In addition to free legal support, Cause of Action has also created a well polished public relations campaign to help build public sympathy for the Lunny family whose lease for their commercial shellfish farm, purchased in 2004, was not renewed in December. The issue goes far beyond the Lunny family and their oysters.

Drakes Estero Shoreline Wilderness

Background - Cousin in the East Coast Shellfish Growers Association
In 2004 the Johnson family sold their commercial shellfish operation located in the designated wilderness area of Drakes Estero to the Lunny family. The Lunny's purchased the operation fully aware of the government's long-term goal of creating the only wilderness shoreline in the United States. The Lunny's apparent hope was they would be able to convince the government the lease should be extended and not end in 2012, a calculated gamble. Combined no doubt with encouragement found in Mr. Lunny being a cousin of the then President of the East Coast Shellfish Growers Association, Tom Kehoe, he stepped up and purchased the operation. In 2012, Interior Secretary Salazar confirmed the commercial shellfish operation did not fit within the definition of "wilderness" and allowed the lease to expire. Mr. Lunny lost the card game, but there is a bigger game being played.

Scientific Disagreements
Entwined within the argument of whether the lease should have been extended or not was an Environmental Impact Statement performed by the Nationnal Park Service. After a multi-year process the EIS showed there were significant adverse impacts from the commercial shellfish operation, ranging from the introduction of non-native shellfish species (Pacific oysters and Manila clams) to the spread of the non-native invasive tunicate, Didemnum vexillum. The conclusion was that these adverse impacts would continue and get worse, a conclusion the shellfish industry became alarmed about. [click here for EIS]

Non-native Invasive Tunicates from
Taylor Shellfish's Mussel Raft in Totten Inlet
Also found in Drakes Estero on shellfish from DPOC.

Shellfish Lobbying Groups Mobilize
In 2005, the Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association (PCSGA) became engaged in the process, and, in 2006, brought in their Washington DC lobbyist, David Weiman, to lobby for the renewal. In 2007, becoming aware of the growing body of scientific evidence showing the commercial operation's adverse impacts, PCSGA had their attorney (Mr. Plauche) become involved and filed a complaint under the "Data Quality Act", rejected by the National Park Service. [click here for an article on the Data Quality Act from The National Law Journal]

In 2010, concerns within the shellfish industry continued to grow, extending to the East Coast Shellfish Growers Association (ECSGA). Then President Tom Kehoe, the cousin of Kevin Lunny, asked members to engage in the process. Requests for support of Mr. Kehoe's cousin from the ECSGA continued with requests to sign petitions; requests to contact representatives; and general pleas for support, finally reaching a climax with Executive Director Bob Rheault telling members the more it went on, "...the more libertarian I become."

December 2012: The Water Boils - Dan Epstein, Darrell Issa, and the Koch Brothers
Late 2012, Secretary Salazar did not renew the lease, "...based on the incompatibility of commercial activities in wilderness ...." As put in the East Bay Express:  "In short, Salazar essentially decided that it would be a mistake to set a national precedent, and thus open the door for other commercial enterprises on potential wilderness land around the country to request lease extensions, too. If the secretary's reason for closing the oyster farm sounds familiar to Express readers, it's because this newspaper noted back in June that the intense controversy over whether Drakes Bay Oyster Company was harming the environment was irrelevant, and that the real issue at stake in Point Reyes was the precedent it would set if Salazar decided to re-up the oyster farm's lease." (December 5, 2012).
An invitation distributed last year by the shellfish lobbying
groups, noting Shell Oil as a co-sponsor. Shell Oil
 has currently grounded one of its drilling rigs used in the Arctic.
The decision was well thought out and avoided the shellfish industry's Data Quality questions, something which the industry would have dragged on for years. But when larger players began to realize what it meant for other industries seeking opportunities in designated wilderness areas, the game became bigger and Lunny was encouraged to sue. Enter Dan Epstein, described by Mother Jones as:  "a former GOP counsel on the House's Committee on Oversight and Government Reform under California Republican Darrell Issa. Epstein is also a veteran employee of billionaires Charles and David Koch; he used to work at the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation and for a Koch Industries lawyer." [click here for article]

The ironic part of what Cause of Action professes to be upset about and defending - "public accountability" - is that the leases which Mr. Lunny and his shellfish operation operates under collect virtually nothing for his million dollar plus operation (the National Park Service was paid $2,800 per year [click here for NPS Permit]). Were Cause of Action truly following their "public accountability" belief, they would have instead been pursuing a suit demanding compensation for the use of public lands the Lunny's were using for virtually nothing. (Note: A separate lease was also in effect with California.) But that was not their concern. Instead, they have attempted to frame the issue as one of "an illegal taking", despite the operation occurring on public lands, let alone on now designated wilderness.

Precedence -
At issue, and why the Cause of Action is so involved, is that if it can be shown a commercial operation such as the Lunny's commercial shellfish operation may operate in designated wilderness areas, the door is opened to any commercial operations operating in designated wilderness areas. Not just shellfish farms and not just existing operations whose leases are set to expire. The Koch brothers and their allies in the energy field do not care about the Lunny's nor their oysters. They are nothing more than a pawn. What they care about is the precedence set in allowing the lease for a commercial operation in a designated wilderness area to continue, including access to energy sources which may lie in designated wilderness areas such as those found in the shale formations below Theodore Roosevelt National Park. [read National Park Advocate article here]

Reality, not PR: T-Shirts Saying "Drakes Bay Oyster" at Court are Not Relevant
(from a recent press release on the upcoming court hearing: "It would also be helpful if you have a DBOC sweatshirt or T-shirt to wear it.")
Well polished public relations campaigns and T Shirts paid for by those who put their own self interests above those of the general public and future generations (perhaps even those they profess to support) should not be allowed to influence any decision about Drakes Estero, whether in court or otherwise. The Lunny's, most likely encouraged by their cousin who was then President of the East Coast Shellfish Growers Association, made a bad business decision. Gamblers should not be rewarded nor rescued when they make a bad bet, which is exactly what the Lunny family did.

"We have millions of dollars of oysters which will go to waste." The West Coast shellfish industry is crying for more oysters to grow. The Lunny's have a ready market at the grower level where these oysters may be sold. Saying "millions of dollars will be lost" is simply not true.

"30 employees will be out of a job." Using the skilled workers being displaced is deplorable. The shellfish industry has said for years they cannot get the skilled labor of the very kind the Lunny's are so concerned about. These skilled workers are the backbone of the shellfish industry and can find jobs in one of a number of locations, ranging from Humboldt Bay to Puget Sound. Whether they are paid what they are worth is a separate subject, but well worth delving into at some point.

"Removing shellfish will result in increased nutrient loads and low dissolved oxygen." The amount of nitrogen and sediment removed from Drakes Bay Estero by the "filtering" and "harvesting" of shellfish is a fractional amount of nutrients which enter the waters. If, in fact, the Lunny's and the shellfish industry are truly concerned about the health of Drakes Estero waters, they should instead focus on their own cattle.

"Getting rid of the oyster farms is just part one." The greater risk to cattle farms on Point Reyes are shellfish operations in the waters around Point Reyes. Shellfish operations may easily bring focus to the perceived threat of runoff from cattle and dairy farms, putting in question whether they should continue. It is not the National Park Service they need to be concerned about, it is the very people supporting the Lunny's continued shellfish operation they should be concerned about - the shellfish industry.

What will the Lunny Family Do?
The Lunny's have been operating a cattle ranch on public lands in the same location on Point Reyse for generations now. Their cattle are able to feed on those public lands for very little and people pay a premium price for the meat from those cattle. The Lunny's, and their children, will continue to live far more comfortably than many people in the United States. They will also have the Drakes Estero Shoreline Wilderness area to enjoy, along with everyone else. Their finally agreeing to the the lease expiration will also help ensure other designated wilderness areas will not come under threat. As Mr. Epstein says on his Cause of Action web site: "...the clients we select are secondary to our educational mission." It's something the Lunny's should consider over morning coffee, or tea.

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