Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Last Two Oysters, Death of a Family Business

We spent a week in Morin County, California. We saw signs all over the place, “Save our Drakes Bay Oyster Farm”. What’s this all about? I decided to look for myself. So I took a drive out to Point Reyes National Seashore and I found Drakes Bay.

Three hours before I arrived, the Supreme Court of the Unites States decided not to hear the case launched by Drakes Bay Oyster Farm to save their family business. The National Park Service, showing the same lack of intelligence as the Bureau of Land Management under James Watt, has done a great wrong.

©2014 Steve Borichevsky

These were the last two oysters sold at Drakes Bay on the day the last card was played by the government, demonstrating that our elected and appointed officials are fully incapable of assimilating data and make sound decisions.

©2014 Steve Borichevsky

A family business, fully sustainable with a positive environmental impact was forced to close.

©2014 Steve Borichevsky

We see the government closing down fishermen here on the east coast, further demonstrating that if you do not have a small army of layers to do you dirty work, you are at risk.

©2014 Steve Borichevsky

I asked them, “What is your recourse at this point?” After eight years of litigation, they are done. There is no recourse. Local jobs are gone. A family that held the land in stewardship is out of business. On July 31st, the doors will close forever.

I was told I could go anywhere on the property I wanted to, except on the docks. “We are not allowed to repair our infrastructure, so it is not safe for the public.” Since they were under court orders, they had not been able to repair their docs for years.

©2014 Steve Borichevsky

The oyster farm had a positive impact on the land and the environment. It was stated when Point Reyes became a part of the National Parks Service, that the oyster farming and dairy farming would be preserved. Oyster farming, a proper use of a great resource. The land on Point Reyes is dotted with dairy farms. These farmers should be nervous. My prediction is that they will be next.

I talked with restaurateurs and locals. I did not meet one person who agreed with the National Parks Service on this. With all the people I talked to, one would think I would have heard something bad. Okay, I didn’t talk to anyone in the Park Service. Why should I? They have already demonstrated a lack of ability assimilate and process data correctly. But think for yourself and make your own decision.

©2014 Steve Borichevsky

How were the oysters? Damned tasty! I’m not an oyster person, but I ordered them three times that week.

5 comments:

Rebecca said...

And this is the problem with big government.

perishedcore said...

I greatly respect and admire the work you do, Steve - both in your photography and in your storytelling. But to not investigate the NPS role in this (and whatever other entities were and are involved) is not up to your own standards. I'll start Googling on my own, but I hope you will investigate, too.

I am an NPS volunteer for the Boston Harbor Islands, and as a part of that, I also have participated in several of their researcher directed citizen science projects. One of these has been reintroducing clam beds and monitoring their health. I think, IIRC, that oyster bed habitat restoration is going on around Wellfleet and other NE seaboard areas, via the NPS.

These activities seem to be at odds with the NPS assumed ham-handed actions that this family shared with you. It's critically important to get all of the facts out there so that we, the citizenry, can take informed action.

If you (and anyone else with an interest) want to collaborate on investigating this further, my email addy is aek2013 at columbia dot edu

Best-

Annie

perishedcore said...

Me, again:

I got lucky after Googling Point Reyes National Seashore NPS. Here's a page of links to documents on the Drake Oyster Company's situation and actions:

http://www.nps.gov/pore/parkmgmt/planning_dboc_sup_deis_endnoted_correspondence.htm

It looks like it will take some time to read thoughtfully through all these, and I will also look for news reporting so that we can get a larger picture.

Best-

Annie

perishedcore said...

One more time:

I think that I found some reportage that will round out the story, and it give me pause for thought - about the same thing happening to the wee tiny summer community of Portuguese fisherfolk residing on Peddocks Island until their deaths, at which time their properties there revert to NPS ownership.

Here's what i found:

The 2012 Sec of Interior Salazar's statement on the Drakes Bay Oyster Company: http://www.doi.gov/news/pressreleases/secretary-salazar-issues-decision-on-point-reyes-national-seashore-permit.cfm

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today issued a decision that will allow the Drakes Bay Oyster Company’s operating permit to expire at Point Reyes National Seashore in California according to its terms, and will return the affected area to wilderness. The decision also ensures that, in keeping with the historic use of the land, existing sustainable ranching operations within the national park will continue.

In 1972, the National Park Service purchased the land that housed the oyster operation and the owner reserved a 40-year right to continue its activities through November 30, 2012. In 2004, Drakes Bay Oyster Company acquired the business from the prior owner. Today’s decision will end the company’s commercial operations within the national park, including an onshore oyster processing facility and offshore oyster harvesting activities that occur on over 1,000 acres in the estuary.


My attention was caught by the 40 year lease that Drake's purchased in 2004 - and which was always set to expire in 2014. Did Drakes' owners know this when they purchased the company? If so, then that's a different animal. If not, they have a beef with the sellers and not necessarily the NPS.

Here's more reportage:

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Point_Reyes_National_Seashore

Huffington Post: focus on the Drake Bay situation with an editorial slant http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-sheff/drake-bay-oyster-company_b_5607055.html

LA Times which focuses on the farms and ranches and relationship with the NPS http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-point-reyes-reconciliation-20140526-story.html#page=1

That's more than enough reading for anyone's eyeballs. Hope this helps, and thanks again for bringing it the attention it deserves.

Best-

Annie

Steve Borichevsky said...

Hi Annie,
Yes, this is a complex and I appreciate the legwork that you put into this, helping us understand the situation.

As a casual observer and outsider to this issue, it is unreasonable that I have all of the facts or visibility to what truly is going on behind the scenes. I am fully aware that when it comes to the BLM, Parks Services and other entities such as Gloucester politics, there are always unseen forces pulling strings behind closed doors.

I hate to use generalities such as “always” but when I see a successful and well thought of entity come under attack, there is always some hidden vested interest. In this case as I drove through the farmlands of the Reyes Peninsula, what I observed was overgrazing, erosion and practices inconsistent with sustainability. (Have you ever seen farmland in Switzerland? If so, you will know what I mean.) I do not want to imply that the farmers are evil and need to be extirpated immediately, no far from the truth. I come from farm country and farmers rock in my book. What I’m saying is that the oyster farm brought benefit to the ecosystem, provided a valuable product and was admired by its community.

As an outsider looking in, I could name about five entities that may have a vested interest in taking out Drakes Bay Oyster Farm. It would be a disservice for me to rattle off the list at this point, after all, I am just a casual observer and I am not interested in defaming potentially innocent parties. My point is that suppressive people work behind the scenes and put others in the spotlight so that they may remain hidden and hidden and unknown.

One topic that I did not touch upon is it was reported to me that the Koch Brothers had their eye on this. That alone causes me anguish.

Thank you again for the information, Annie. I will take a look at it.

As for getting into a 10 year lease with the government, I can only ask, “What were they thinking?” Me, I would have passed.

Best regards,

Steve

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