10-20-13 McCloskey letter to CA Democratic Party Resolution Committee

To:       California Democratic Party Resolution Committee

From:  Pete McCloskey

Date:   October 20, 2013


Dear Resolution Committee members,


The purpose of this letter is to strongly endorse the Resolution to support the Drakes Bay Oyster Farm (DBOF), submitted to the Executive Board of the California Democratic Party.


As a former Congressman, a founder of the original Earth Day, co-author of the Endangered Species Act and early supporter of the national Wilderness Act, I played a key role in securing federal funding needed to purchase the Point Reyes ranchlands for the formation of the Point Reyes National Seashore (PRNS) in 1970.  In August, 2011, I, along with John Burton, retired United States senator and lead author of the 1976 Point Reyes Wilderness Act (PRWA), and William Bagley, the former California state assemblyman who, in 1965, wrote the bill that transferred ownership of State waters surrounding Point Reyes to the National Park Service (NPS), submitted a letter to then-Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, urging the Secretary to renew Drakes Bay Oyster Company’s operating permit.  Simply stated, the claim that Drakes Estero must be converted to wilderness in 2012 is based upon a misinterpretation of the Act, and of the history leading to it.


As the legislative history makes clear, and as emphasized in Judge Paul J. Watford’s September 3, 2013 Ninth Circuit Court dissent, continuation of the oyster farm in perpetuity was supported by promoters of the PRWA from the beginning.  Explicit in the language of the 1965 Bagley bill, which transferred State waters to the US, the California Department of Fish and Game retained rights to its shellfish leases in the Estero, representing  55% of the State’s shellfish water bottom leases.  These could not, and cannot, be given up absent an Act of the State legislature.  There is no impact to the national Wilderness Act, or the Point Reyes Wilderness Act, of respecting the retained rights of the State of California to its shellfish water bottom leases.  The claim by oyster farm opponents that this issue is a struggle between the integrity of the national Wilderness Act and a profiteering commercial shellfish operation is erroneous and threatens the integrity of the State’s – and particularly the SF Bay Area’s — sustainable shellfish production  capacity.


Additionally, while some have argued that retaining California’s 80-year shellfish leases in Drakes Estero will somehow open California’s coastline to fracking (already taking place off our coast), Drakes Estero is a protected State Marine Conservation Area, in which recreational clamming and commercial shellfish harvesting are explicitly allowed, while other types of use  are explicitly forbidden.


California shellfish aquaculture contributes to the overall seafood supply, eases pressure on commercial fisheries, enhances habitat for at-risk species, and maintains economic activity in coastal communities and working waterfronts.   Shellfish aquaculture is a tool for habitat and species restoration, facilitating rebuilding of oyster reefs, enhancing habitat for wild fish populations and improving water quality.  With ocean acidification, warming sea temperatures and rising sea levels, the need for improved production of managed fishery resources is increasingly apparent.  DBOF is the most productive shellfish aquaculture lease in California, yet


CDP Resolution  Committee October 20, 2013

Page 2


involves less than 10% of the Estero’s waters.  Those for whom environmental protection is genuinely a motivating factor stand for protection of California’s Drakes Estero shellfish production capacity, not against it.  Abandonment  of California’s Drakes Estero water bottoms to DOI would undermine the sustainability of the entire State shellfish program at a time of unprecedented  — and growing — demand for shellfish in the face of exploding human population, a projected doubling of human need for high quality protein, and precipitously declining oceanic fish stocks.


The Drakes Bay Oyster Farm has unique cultural and economic significance. It provides good jobs for men and women in equal numbers, many of Hispanic heritage, in an agricultural area where most available jobs are held by men.  The importance of this fact for the well being of the affected families, and the community as a whole, cannot be overemphasized.   Many of these workers also live on the farm, and will be forced from their homes, and their children from their schools, if DBOF is forced to close.  Further, the oyster farm serves a remarkably diverse clientele, with a predominance of Asian and Hispanic visitors from throughout the greater San Francisco Bay Area.  Many of these families have partaken of the products of the oyster farm for generations, returning year after year to enjoy the healthful, delicious bounty of the Estero, fresh from the source, and rendering the oyster farm the single most popular visitor destination in the Seashore.


The oyster farm’s operator, a fourth generation local farming family that purchased the farm in 2005, has evidenced exemplary stewardship of the resource, partnering with the University of California Sea Grant program, NOAA fisheries, and the San Francisco Bay Native Oyster Restoration Project on a number of significant marine restoration and research efforts, as well as effecting dramatic improvements of the Drakes Bay farm itself.  In addition, the oyster farm offers educational opportunities to local and regional schools, from the elementary to graduate level.


DBOF and the marine aquaculture resource it represents is an essential component of our State’s sustainable seafood production infrastructure.   As the FDA, FAO, NOAA Fisheries and Department of Commerce have made clear, we need this irreplaceable resource now, and will need it even more in the near future.


As a registered Democrat, I strongly urge the Democratic Party Resolution Committee to endorse the Resolution to support the Drakes Bay Oyster Farm.


Thank you,

p-&l- /vtc

Pete Mccloskey

Leave a comment


  1. Milly Biller

     /  November 22, 2013

    Is there any particular person or entity that we should write to in order to support this letter? Can you publish their names and contact info so we can do this?

  2. Milly Biller

     /  November 22, 2013

    I wholeheartedly support Pete McCloskey’s letter urging the Democratic Party to endorse the Resolution supporting the DBOC. I do not have the considerable space it would take to enumerate the many reasons that this endorsement is critically important, but the scientific misconduct by the National Park Service, the loss of one of the mainstays of the local foodshed, the cultural loss to the thousands who visit the farm each year, the loss of local jobs and family displacement, cannot be overstated.
    At issue here too is support for the En Banc appeal made to the 9th District Court by DBOC, It would allow them to stay in operation while the larger lawsuit against the NPS and the DOI is heard. The three judge panel appointed by the 9th circuit ruled that they have no jurisdiction over a decision made by a department of the Federal Government. If the courts cannot make a judgement on a governmental agency’s decision based on misrepresentation and scientific malfeasance, I think as a country, we are all in trouble. This is the system of checks and balances that is fundamental to our Constitution.
    I urge the Democratic Party Resolution Committee to endorse the Resolution in favor of the Drakes Bay Oyster farm.

  3. Siobhan k. Devin

     /  November 23, 2013

    Mr. McCloskey’s well-informed letter accurately describes the DBOC situation. Please support the Oyster Farm and in so doing, the health of Drakes Estero in perpetuity.

    Siobhan K. Devin


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