Drakes Bay Oyster Company has agreed to permanently cease all oyster farming operations at Drakes Estero and has settled its long-running lawsuit with the federal government.

As part of the settlement agreement which was filed this morning, Drakes will be allowed to keep harvesting oysters until the end of 2014, at which point the National Park Service will remove all of Drakes’ remaining oyster-farming equipment and structures.

While the farm will be closing, the owners of the Oyster Company are planning to open “Drakes Oyster House,” a new restaurant to be located at the Tomales Bay Resort in Inverness, California.

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by soccermom

    I was never sure who to root for on this issue.

    The farmers were trying to extend a lease that had come to an official end. They bought the place knowing the lease was ending.

    The interest of the national government in ending this farming practice is a little unclear for me. A few jobs lost, extra costs getting “replacement” oysters from farther away. What will be the uptick in biodiversity that we gain? The ‘structures’ were invisible except to viewers on the water.

    I suppose it’s like pulling out all of the Monterey Cypress along Lincoln Ave above Baker Beach in the name of pure native plants. Then the hillslide slips and needs to be repaired. Twice.

    I hope the farmers’ new restaurant works. That part of One is a tough stretch to which to market, though Nick’s Cove seems to do well in the summer.

  2. Posted by curmudgeon

    Agree that it is hard to know who to root for on this issue. But I would add that Point Reyes National Seashore was founded with an important compromise between environmentalists and ranchers at its core. The idea was the Point Reyes would be preserved, but would also be a “working landscape”..much like the National Forest is the “land of many uses”. That’s why there are cows pastured on Point Reyes to this day. I’m no marine biologist, and I haven’t investigated the issue thoroughly, but I liked the idea of oyster farming as one of many historical uses of the land (and sea) that could be integrated into a national park.

    • Posted by foggydunes

      Same here- I don’t know any of the scientific background about why oyster farming is not acceptable from a biological/environmental basis, but liked the idea of it being part of the “culture” of this landscape.

      Hopefully the restaurant does well– I don’t know much about the resort in Inverness, but the area generally seems especially popular with the weekend crowds these days.

      I’d be interested to see if anyone ever does anything with the old Marshall Tavern. I saw that it was for sale.

      • Posted by soccermom

        The Marshall Tavern does look like a cool place. It also looks like a pit fifty feet in diameter with an indeterminate depth to start dumping money into. There is a big Coastal Commission backstory there to be researched.

  3. Posted by NoeNeighbor

    It is sad to see this go; While the government certainly had the legal right to kick them out, it is unclear why that was good policy. Nothing I read every made me think that they oyster farming (which is performed in bays all over the world) had a meaningfully negative environmental impact. This seems like a triumph of purity over pragmatism.

  4. Posted by bus rider

    My limited understanding makes me think that the National Park Service made an error by sticking to their guns and not renewing the lease. Oysters, unlike most commercial livestock, require no supplemental feed. Farming oysters is about as sustainable as you can get and they cleanse the marine waters to boot.

  5. Posted by Orland

    Everyone is overthinking what is the “right” answer here. This calls for a political solution.

    I think it’s clear there is a local consensus that this operation is an integral part of Bay Area identity. Given all the money Obama has taken out of here, I can’t understand why Feinstein and Pelosi have not simply informed him how Interior should be “instructed” to rule.

    • Posted by Jake

      There clearly is not a local consensus on this. There was and is local organized opposition, though they may be in the minority and I may not agree with them.
      The political solution is the Point Reyes Wilderness Act, 1976, and the Wilderness Act, 1964.
      Like it or not, Interior’s ruling following these acts of Congress has been upheld by Federal courts. It’s over. Put an oyster fork in it.

      • Posted by Orland

        You clearly don’t understand politics and “activists” do not a consensus make.

        • Posted by Jake

          I understand what a consensus is and there isn’t one. Plenty of local people on both sides of this, more for extending the lease than against, but not close to a consensus.
          I’ve heard it directly from folks I know in west marin, but you don’t have to believe me, there have been news reports of hard feelings among neighbors over this for years.
          How naive do you have to be about ‘politics’ to think that Pelosi and Feinstein can “instruct” Obama and Salazar.

          • Posted by Orland

            It is the height of naivete to posit that a political solution was reached by legislation enacted a couple of generations ago. This is an instance of calling in political favors. I can’t believe it has come to this since both Feinstein and Pelosi are on record as heavily lobbying for the company on the “merits.” Either they don’t have the juice they should or Obama’s actually as tone deaf as some of his detractors claim.

          • Posted by JR "Bob" Dobbs

            Boy, to me it is an extremely healthy sign that legislation cannot be “trumped” by a couple of politicians “calling in political favors.” I couldn’t care less about the outcome — I hate oysters as they taste like saltwater snot soaked in fish juice, but others like them, so have at it. But kudos to the process working as it should in a democracy. Believe me, this is far preferable to something like China where local pols just make up the laws, regardless of what the laws on the books actually say.

          • Posted by Jake

            I believe there is a consensus that acts of Congress signed by Presidents and upheld by courts count as political solutions. The 1976 act designates this location to be returned to wilderness. It has taken so long because a 40-year lease had to expire.

            FYI, there was a US House bill to overturn Salazar’s decision on the oyster farm. It was not supported by either Pelosi or Congressman Jared Huffman whose district includes the entire CA coast north of the Golden Gate. You can read his reasoning in an oped he wrote last year at namelink.

            Essentially, the House GOP wanted too much in return, but that’s politics in the real world for you.

          • Posted by Orland

            The point is that the decision was essentially at the discretion (you can read into the statutory language what you want) of a member of the Obama administration and runs counter to the prevalent view of an area which has been very good to him. Beyond Pollyannaish to find cheer in that result. Should have been “taken care of” 2 years ago with a telephone call.

      • Posted by Sierrajeff

        Well that’s the problem, the NPS is trying to treat Point Reyes and the GGNRA like the backcountry in Yosemite or some pristine wilderness in Alaska – whether it’s oyster farming, or dog walking, or removing “non-native” Monterey cypress (which have the audacity to have been planted almost 150 miles from their natural California range). It was a mistake to hand these areas over to the federal government, with one-size-fits-all decisions being made 1000s of miles away.

  6. Posted by Brian M

    The purist approach to landscape management IS problematic. Level all the trees and return SF to the scrubby weeds and dunes?

    [Removed by Editor]

  7. Posted by jenofla

    I believe the NPS was just trying to (not) set a precedent. If they give in here, then what’s to prevent all of the cattle ranchers, oil drillers, etc. with grandfather clauses/expirations all across the nation from suing as well to maintain their usage of the land. I mourn the loss of the oyster farm, and I mourn the lack of ability of government (and communities) to make location-specific reasonable decisions, but I can see why this was the easiest way out.

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