The Shore Is Their Oyster

The Shore Is Their Oyster

A fertile estuary in northern California could lose full wilderness status to an oyster company poised to extend its commercial activity for another decade.

By Daisy Yuhas
Published: 12/06/2011

Barbara Salzman, president of Audubon's Marin chapter, isn't budging on the issue because she believes that Drakes Estero area was a planned wilderness area for a reason. The biologically rich region stands to lose too much to simply justify humans' culinary palates, she says, noting that Drakes Oyster Company could move to another location on the coast. Other oyster operations, though less productive, operate within a 30-minute drive of the Estero. "There are other alternatives for the Lunnys," Salzman says. "But there isn't really an alternative for this area. There is no alternative for these birds, for the eelgrass, or for the seals."*

*Factual amendments were made to this article on December 7, 2011.

A public comment period will be open until December 9. You can share your views by sending comments in support of A, the no-action alternative, which has been classified by the National Park Service as the "Environmentally Preferred Alternative." Options B, C, and D support the new permit for the Lunnys. Click here, or send comments to:
Melanie Gunn
Point Reyes National Seashore Headquarters1 Bear Valley Road
Point Reyes, CA 94956

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Daisy Yuhas

Type: Author | From: Audubon Magazine


Oysters are not native to Drakes Estero

The National Academy of Sciences report cited a lot of great peer-reviewed science about shellfish cultivation. However, their premise was wrong, and their conclusions were wrong. Much of the debate about whether or not Drakes Bay Oyster Company ought to remain in Drakes Estero for another year has centered around the two-sided question of whether the commercial operation is helping or hurting the marine ecosystem. If we start with the facts, the answer emerges with some clarity actually. Drakes Estero is a soft bottom environment, which is not oyster habitat. All available evidence, historical, ethnographic, archeological and ecological, demonstrate that Drakes Estero was never oyster habitat, contrary to the assumptions of the Academy report. Oysters need hard substrate on which to live, and Drakes Estero has very little, thus the need to use racks and bags to cultivate the non-native Pacific oyster.

The scale of oyster cultivation in Drakes Estero is a wholesale ecological alteration, which affects all elements of the estuarine food web: native shellfish (at least 8 species of clams), fish, harbor seals, eelgrass beds, and birds. Pacific oyster is considered one of the 100 worst invasive species in Europe and has been documented naturalizing up and down the west coast including in San Francisco Bay, along with Manila clam, also farmed by DBOC, and also considered an invasive species. Morever, these two invasive shellfish and their manufactured hard substrate environments have created an opportunity for a very invasive sea squirt, or tunicate, to become established in the Estero, and this well-known invasive species has spread to the eelgrass beds, which are nurseries for many different marine organisms. And there are many more invasive fouling organisms that can follow the tunicate, as has occurred in San Francisco Bay.

Far from replacing a lost ecological function, the cultivation of non-native oysters is just another example of monocultural dominance of an otherwise healthy ecosystem. The situation is similar to French broom taking over the urban-wildland interface of East Marin or European beach grass smothering western snowy plover habitat along the coastal strand. The National Park Service has an obligation to clean up the mess created by the oyster operation by not renewing their Special Use Permit.

w/r/t above

Sorry, that should say "Contentious Debates." Lest I type too hastily. rabble rabble.

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