The Newspaper of the San Francisco Bay Chapter
November - December 2007
Drakes Bay Oyster Company quits negotiations, rejects permit conditions
Firm operating in Estero designated for wilderness says, `My tide or the high tide'
The Drakes Bay Oyster Company has withdrawn huffily from negotiations with the National Park Service for a permit that would allow it to legally grow and harvest oysters in Drakes Estero till 2012. DBOC has also rejected operating conditions proposed by the California Coastal Commission. The agencies' conditions would allow DBOC to operate profitably until 2012 while protecting the environment.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein has been trying to mediate between the company and regulatory agencies, but now that Drakes Oyster has walked out, the Sierra Club believes that it is time for the Park Service and the Coastal Commission to issue and enforce permits for the operation.
In 1976 Congress designated Drakes Estero in Point Reyes National Seashore to become part of the Phillip Burton Wilderness. The Estero is the only West Coast wilderness estuary between the Mexican and Canadian borders. Congress included a non-renewable exemption for oystering to continue in the Estero until 2012.
In 2005 the DBOC bought the remaining seven years of oystering rights, in full knowledge that the Estero would convert to wilderness in 2012. DBOC, however, has been lobbying to overturn the wilderness designation and has been operating without permits intended to minimize environmental impacts.
On Sep. 11 the Coastal Commission's senior ecologist, Dr. John Dixon, issued a memorandum outlining known and likely effects of the oyster farm on the Estero and pointing out that many environmental impacts depend on the number of oysters being cultivated. The current relatively good environmental condition of the Estero is in part due to the fact that in the 54 years of oyster cultivation prior to DBOC, oyster production averaged fewer than three million oysters. Currently, however, DBOC has 14 million oysters under cultivation.
The memorandum includes a list of reasonable recommendations for minimizing negative impacts:
Drakes has responded by attacking the National Park Service's science supporting the memorandum, and continues to expand, thumbing its nose at permit conditions that would protect the environment of Drakes Estero.
Write to the Coastal Commission:
Urge the Commission to institute permit conditions for Drakes Bay Oyster Company as proposed in the Dixon memorandum.
For more information, including the Dixon memorandum and the Park Service's refutation of DBOC's criticisms, see: savedrakesbay.org
© 2007 San Francisco Sierra Club Yodeler
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