Red Herrings in Drakes Estero
Jeff Creque, Ph.D. Land Stewardship Consultation, responded on April 25 to a letter in Marin Voice written by Dr. Marty Griffin. Below is his response as it appeared in the West Marin Citizen, the Marin IJ, as well as the Press Democrat.
Dr. Marty Griffin’s years of service to the cause of conservation in Marin are appreciated, but his opinion piece (MV, 5/2/13) reminds me of Michael Moore’s comment at the Oscars some years ago; we do indeed live in fictitious times.
Dr. Griffin reviews the many charges brought against the Drakes Bay Oyster Farm (DBOF) by the California Coastal Commission (CCC) in its ongoing collaboration with the National Park Service (NPS) to eliminate aquaculture on over 55% of the State of California’s water bottom shellfish leases, but he fails to explain the CCC’s ham-handed attempts to regulate an activity over which it has no statutory authority.
If DBOF is, technically, out of compliance with CCC regulations, it is due entirely to the success of the bureaucratic pincer move deployed jointly by the CCC and NPS. There have been no “expanded operations” by the oyster farm. Johnson’s Oyster Company (JOC) harvested some 800,000 pounds annually prior to the company’s collapse in 2004. DBOF has gradually rebuilt the farm’s annual harvest to about 400,000 pounds, half that of JOC.
Oysters may be an irrelevant luxury food item for Dr. Griffin, but they remain one of the few sustainable sources of marine protein on the planet. While global fisheries collapse, sea levels rise and oceans acidify, estuary restoration efforts throughout the world attempt to restore oyster beds as rapidly as possible. Only in Drakes Estero are reputed environmentalists working overtime to destroy our capacity to produce what the Monterey Bay Aquarium calls a “super green” sea food.
Dr. Griffin might read the National Academy of Sciences report he misquotes to learn more about Didemnum vexillum, which is ubiquitous in estuaries globally. If he did, he would know oyster culture did not cause its presence in Drakes Estero, and it is not possible to eradicate, even if all cultured oysters were removed. He would learn that the NAS found no evidence of environmental harm from shellfish aquaculture in the Estero and recommended development of a Collaborative Management Plan to enable aquaculture to continue, and to address the concerns raised in this overheated debate with legitimate scientific inquiry, in an adaptive management framework.
Most importantly, I want to assure Dr. Griffin that there is nothing frivolous about our lawsuit, undertaken only after much deliberation and careful legal analysis by our pro bono legal team. The anguish expressed during our pre-filing deliberations by Ms. Faber, whose own lifetime of laudable service to the cause of conservation in Marin rivals even Dr. Griffin’s, including her tireless efforts to bring about the Coastal Act and her service on the original CCC, was, for me, particularly sobering.
As made clear in our legal brief, the CCC has greatly exceeded its authority in this matter, working against its own statutory requirement to support coastal dependent activities, particularly aquaculture, and both replicating and exceeding authorities of the Fish and Game Commission, in direct violation of the Coastal Act.
With 14.5 million residents to feed in the SF Bay Area today, and 21 million projected by mid-century, the importance of this critical, sustainable, nearly perfect marine protein resource is increasingly obvious to all who care about the future of sustainable food production in our region. DBOF is an archetypical example of exactly the type of food production we need more, not less of. It is part of the solution to our growing dilemma; it is most certainly not part of the problem.
I urge those in our community who share our concerns to become involved in this issue while there is still time.
Jeffrey Creque, Ph.D.
Alliance for Local Sustainable Agriculture
908 Western Ave