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Oyster farm must close, ruling says
Issue Date: December 5, 2012 Ag Alert
Declaring the nationís first aquatic wilderness in Drakes Estero, part of Point Reyes National Seashore and the site of a century-old oyster farm, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced last week the farmís operating permit would not be renewed. The decision ended years of effort by the Lunny family and a diverse coalition of supporters to keep the farm in operation.
In 1972, the National Park Service purchased the land that houses the oyster operation. The owner at the time reserved a 40-year right to continue activities through Nov. 30, 2012. In 2004, Drakes Bay Oyster Co., owned by the Lunny family, acquired the oyster farm. The family has ranched on adjoining lands for nearly a century.
Point Reyes National Seashore was designated part of the national park system by Congress in 1962. The parkís authorizing legislation allows the Interior secretary to lease designated areas within the park for dairy and cattle-ranching purposes.
The decision announced by Salazar last week ends production of an estimated 40 percent of the stateís oyster crop and eliminates about 30 jobs for workers who also live on-site.
Salazar directed the National Park Service to remove personal property from the lands and waters within 90 days, and asked the Park Service to help employees who might be affected by the decision, including assisting with relocation, employment opportunities and training.
"I am extremely disappointed that Secretary Salazar chose not to renew the operating permit for the Drakes Bay Oyster Co.," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. "The National Park Serviceís review process has been flawed from the beginning with false and misleading science, which was also used in the environmental impact statement."
Feinstein had criticized the National Park Service for exaggerating the impact of the oyster population at the farm on the estero ecosystem. The Park Service and environmental groups urged that the oyster farm permit not be renewed, saying the farm threatened protected species such as harbor seals.
In a brief statement on its website, Drakes Bay Oyster Co. said, "Although we are still somewhat shocked, we are considering all of our options. Please stay tuned."
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Page Updated: Friday December 14, 2012 02:26 AM Pacific
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