Aquaculture and Eelgrass Are not Compatible
Picture from 2015 clearly shows eelgrass beds stopping
where oyster cultivation begins.
Attorneys for Earthjustice have filed a Writ of Mandate for the California Audubon and California Waterfowl Association in order to stop Coast Seafood's (Pacific Seafood Group) planned expansion into Humboldt Bay eelgrass beds. Filed by Earthjustice against the Humboldt Bay Harbor District, in the California Superior Court in Humboldt County, the papers claim the environmental impact studies used to base the decision off of are flawed (see Final EIR here). Trent Orr, staff attorney with Earthjustice states:
“In its environmental review and approval of the Coast Seafoods expansion, the Humboldt Bay Harbor District ignored solid scientific data and extensive comments from biologists on the severe impacts this proposal would have on Humboldt Bay’s eelgrass beds and the birds, fish, and other wildlife whose survival depends upon them”In describing the critical significance of Humboldt Bay and its eelgrass beds to species dependent on that marine habitat, the California Audubon notes:
[Humboldt Bay is] second only to San Francisco Bay in its importance to shorebirds, Humboldt Bay is one of the most important migratory stopovers along the United States Pacific Coast. It is a globally Important Bird Area and a Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network site of international significance. It boasts the highest shorebird species diversity on the West Coast, with 46 shorebird species regularly using the bay. It provides habitat to significant portions of the populations of Black Brant, Western Sandpipers, Least Sandpipers, Marbled Godwit, and Dunlin, among many others.
The bay is so rich in bird life because of its unusually varied intertidal zone and rich subtidal habitat, which is home to approximately 50% of California’s remaining eelgrass. Eelgrass is particularly important as habitat for producing forage fish and crustaceans and to provide food for migratory and breeding birds.In the papers filed with the Superior court Earthjustice attorneys write:
"...the FEIR fails to fully inform the public and decision-makers of the Project’s significant environmental impacts and fails to analyze and mitigate these impacts as the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires. Petitioners therefore seek relief from this Court to void the Harbor District’s certification of the FEIR and approval of the Project. "The papers go on to describe the impacts the proposed expansion would have and how the analysis was deeply flawed. Points discussed in detail include:
Impacts from Increased Disturbance Associated with Aquaculture Operations; Interference with Various Species’ Feeding and Movement Associated with Aquaculture Gear in Eelgrass and Mudflat Habitats; Broader Environmental Context of Project Impacts; Impacts to Recreational Uses; The Project Approval Process; a Failure to Analyze Cumulative Impacts; and, Failure to Consider Reasonable Range of AlternativesGet involved. Coast Seafoods is only one of the west coast shellfish companies who sees critical tideland habitat, including eelgrass beds, as little more than a template for corporate profits. Whether Puget Sound, Willapa Bay, Humboldt Bay or Drakes Estero, expansion into these critical areas is not speculative. It is real. There is money and motivation behind this industry to forever change a critical marine ecosystem which a diversity of species have depended on for existence. There is no other place to go. When it is gone, they will be gone. Forever.
Trent Orr, Earthjustice, (415) 217-2000
Garrison Frost, Audubon California, (415) 644-4604
Mark Hennelly, California Waterfowl, (916) 648-1406, ext 105