Coastal Commission to Decide on Oyster Expansion Wednesday at HSU

Brant, a migratory goose that stages on Humboldt Bay each year on its way to Alaskan breeding grounds, will figure heavily in discussion of Coast Seafoods’ proposed oyster cultivation expansion. [Photo by Stan Brandenburg]

When the Humboldt Bay Harbor and Recreation District approved Coast Seafoods’ proposed expansion of its current operations in north Humboldt Bay last spring the permitting process moved forward to be approved by the California Coastal Commission. The Commission has produced a staff report suggesting several modifications of the plan, including a reduction of the overall expansion, removal of the second phase of expansion, beefed up monitoring plans and a slower implementation period to address the results of additional monitoring.

The modifications suggest that the Commission took seriously the concerns raised by wildlife biologists and various agencies as well as local recreational users of the bay who claim the science in Coast’s Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is inadequate to support the expansion as proposed.

The Commission will be holding its monthly meeting this Wednesday and Thursday at 9 a.m. on the Humboldt State campus in the Kate Buchanan Room upstairs in the University Center. The Coast project report is on the commission’s Agenda for Wednesday under item 13.

Clicking on the agenda item will bring up the commission’s staff report as well as exhibits and correspondence pertaining to the issue. The public is invited to participate in the meeting, and speakers will be asked to fill out a form stating their intention to speak.

Meanwhile, various agencies and organizations have weighed in on the commission report, with US Fish and Wildlife, Audubon California, and Pacific Birds (a coalition of agencies and NGO’s addressing bird conservation along the entire Pacific coast), as well as numerous wildlife biologists stating in letters to the commission that the report does not go far enough in scaling back the expansion. Some would eliminate the expansion altogether.

Coast Seafoods’ oyster beds on Humboldt Bay [Photo by Stan Brandenburg]

Audubon California’s Marine Program Director Anna Weinstein provided a statement summarizing the requests being made by those objecting to Coast’s expansion:

In light of the known negative effects of Coast’s existing aquaculture in the bay on public trust habitats and species, and the numerous uncertainties in regard to the impacts to these resources of further expansion, the report should be amended to recommend permitting Coast’s operational footprint of 300 acres. If any expansion is permitted, this area should be limited to the approximate 45 acres required to carry out the scientific studies focused on better understanding the impacts of aquaculture on brant, eelgrass, and other species and resources.

Monitoring and adaptive management plans related to a potential constrained expansion must be subject to outside peer review and public review, and the expansion areas should be removed if the results fail to meet performance criteria for brant, eelgrass, and other threatened resources.

Finally, operations should be completely removed from the East Bay Management Area and consolidated into the west side of the bay in order to protect Pacific herring, waterbirds, shorebirds and other species.

Under the existing boundaries of 300 acres, Coast’s gross revenues from shellfish cultivation on Humboldt Bay outpace all of its other operations and have grown from $7.4 million in 2014 to $10 million in 2016. Given this steady growth, some are questioning Coast’s statement at the time of airing its proposal to the Harbor District that operations would become unsustainable without an expansion.

The public is encouraged to join in the debate this Wednesday as the Coastal Commission attempts to balance responsible stewardship of the bay with economic interests.

 

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14 comments

  • Thanks for the update on this important issue.

  • The Brant like the South Bay, ask any local waterfowl hunter. I love the oyster beds, it’s an amazing spot to fish next to. More oysters would mean more jobs. Instead of poo pooing it, why not tax the hell out of coast seafood and use the monies for the bay? We need growth up here that isn’t just weed growth. Our fishery’s are awesome for supporting our local economy. Many get there first jobs on a boat. Help our locals out!

    • Minimum wage jobs making an Oregon owner rich at the expense of public trust lands. There are more Brant using North bay than south bay.it is also an important herring spawning bay and supports thousands of ducks and shorebirds, juvenile Dungeness crab and salmon and sturgeon. The bad effects of oyster culture far outweigh the economic benefits to this community. The company already has the whole west side of the bay.Thats plenty.

    • If a person working those jobs can afford to live in a decent home, eat quality food, afford health insurance, afford safe and reliable transportation, and the job does not come at the cost of our local ecology, then I agree.

  • Wake up people.

    There were way more Brandt in Humboldt Bay… and that was back when Coast Oyster was harvesting oysters by dredge… and they had the big sting-ray traps out in North Bay. Skies in the South Bay were ‘black’ with Brandt flying.

    That was also back when Humboldt Bay was a major fishing area.
    Now the boats are gone, the fisheries plants are gone and the jobs are gone.

    Oysters are one of the few remaining jobs in Humboldt County. You can’t support Humboldt county by charging rich Brandt hunters $500/day for a few weeks in the fall.

    In another few years, the rural Pot farms will be gone, replaced by big pot farms in the Sacramento valley. Humboldt county will be reduced to a population of maybe 20,000 people.

    I guess mostly bird watchers… no jobs here.

    • You are completely wrong. Since coasts operation were reduced and dredging was stopped, eelgrass has recovered and now more brant are using North bay than south bay

  • Veterans friend

    I support the expansion of oyster farming in the bay.

  • >”You are completely wrong. Since coasts operation were reduced and dredging was stopped, eelgrass has recovered and now more brant are using North bay than south bay”

    Yeah… and maybe some more Brandt will support Humboldt County eh?
    Herring. Yup. Well, 1 boat used to fish Herring roe. (They fish it in the channels.)
    Juvenile Crab? Up on the mudflats north bay? Sorry, nope.
    Salmon. (Hmmm… are you counting on the great Jacoby Creek salmon run?)
    Sturgeon. Up on the mudflats? Oh boy.

    >”Since coasts operation were reduced and dredging was stopped…”

    Yup. That pretty much ‘closed down’ the historic oyster business in Humboldt Bay… 50 (or so) employees for Coast Oyster lost their jobs. Now the oyster business is growing a bit… so you (and others) wanna close it again.

    BTW… I worked for Fish & Game/PMFC (Marine Resources) way back in the ’70’s.

    • You should edify yourself more the oyster operations are not in the mudflats they are in the eelgrass beds.the herring spawn on the eelgrass.there are pictures of thousands of baby dungeness in the eelgrass.you must not have read or participated in any of the scientific work concerning this issue. Take a look at the staff report.there are plenty of sturgeon there too and baby salmonids.coast has sales of ten million a year.they are doing just fine with what they have.

  • >”You should edify yourself more the oyster operations are not in the mudflats they are in the eelgrass beds”

    Really ? Why don’t you look at the photo above? I’ve spent many hours out on the ‘mudflats’ in hip boots.

    I’m frankly not sure what you are calling ‘mudflats’ or ‘eelgrass’ beds. ?

    Old ‘oyster grounds’ were out in the middle of the bay, on the er… ‘islands’. They are exposed at low tide… i.e. mudflats. Dredge came in on high tide and harvested the oysters. Low tide you had to struggle to walk (mud) out there. Typically had to take 2 people in case one of you got into trouble. True enough, Eel grass does grow out there… but also in the channels and deeper waters along the edges, which is where the Herring spawn.

    Oysters weren’t grown up on the… ‘coastal’ mudflats surrounding the bay… i.e. the ones you can walk to from the highway, (but there was a plot down behind the Bracut flat.)

    >”you must not have read or participated in any of the scientific work concerning this issue.”

    Hmmm… Interestingly I was there originally. We sampled for megalops (crab larvae) in Humboldt Bay. They were primarily down by the entrance and in south bay.

    We didn’t see any up in north bay at all. Also sampled for juvenile English Sole. Again, mainly down near the entrance and on the sandy beaches. You can find plenty of megalops down in south bay… if the crab ‘set’ is good.

    Interestingly, the ‘oyster flats’ topic was current back 45 years ago. People said that the ocean would be ‘teaming’ with salmon/sturgeon/whatever if oyster harvesting was eliminated (translation… more eelgrass).

    Hint: It wasn’t. Lots of way ‘bigger’ stuff affect salmon/sturgeon (etc.)
    North Bay eelgrass… not much.

  • Abstract

    “Interactions among global change stressors and their effects at large scales are often proposed, but seldom evalu- ated. This situation is primarily due to lack of comprehensive, sufficiently long-term, and spatially extensive data- sets. Seagrasses, which provide nursery habitat, improve water quality, and constitute a globally important carbon sink, are among the most vulnerable habitats on the planet. Here, we unite 31 years of high-resolution aerial moni- toring and water quality data to elucidate the patterns and drivers of eelgrass (Zostera marina) abundance in Chesa- peake Bay, USA, one of the largest and most valuable estuaries in the world, with an unparalleled history of regulatory efforts. We show that eelgrass area has declined 29% in total since 1991, with wide-ranging and severe ecological and economic consequences. We go on to identify an interaction between decreasing water clarity and warming temperatures as the primary drivers of this trend. Declining clarity has gradually reduced eelgrass cover the past two decades, primarily in deeper beds where light is already limiting. In shallow beds, however, reduced visibility exacerbates the physiological stress of acute warming, leading to recent instances of decline approaching 80%. While degraded water quality has long been known to influence underwater grasses worldwide, we demon- strate a clear and rapidly emerging interaction with climate change. We highlight the urgent need to integrate a broader perspective into local water quality management, in the Chesapeake Bay and in the many other coastal sys- tems facing similar stressors. ”

    It’s a mater of saving the habitat, once it has been distroyed the ability to replenish it has proven to be cost prohibitive and unsuccessful. No amount of minimum wage jobs can replace the richness of what Mother Nature is providing the people of Humboldt County. Think of the Eel Grass Medows as the Great Barrier Reef. it has the same equivalent as providing an ecosystem that enhances NorthBay for fish, crabs , waterfowl, shorebirds , and recreation for all to enjoy uninhibited by 60.000 feet of rope and tons of plastic pipe and metal rebar sticking out of the mud. It is a safety hazard just waiting for something to go wrong if the tides and winds drive a kayak or small boat into its jaws of unforgiving oyster gear.
    Sent from my iPad

  • No more Oyster Farms in Humboldt Bay are wanted or needed. There is plenty of room in Oregon for this Oregon company to expand their operations.

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