Coast Seafoods v Humboldt Bay.


Sadly lost in the onslaught of local and national news (not to mention the onslaught of storms this winter) is an important meeting Harbor Commission tonight which seems to pit the interests of one incredibly powerful out-of-town employer against many scientists, fisherfolks and hunters.

Here is a quote from from Will Houston’s article in today’s Times Standard.

Several environmental advocates, bird hunters, fishermen and researchers state the project’s revised environmental impact report still does not address their concerns about the expansion’s impact on sensitive eelgrass beds in the bay and the wildlife that rely on them.

Coast Seafoods’ original proposal from 2015 was to expand 620 acres.  The current proposal is to expand to 256 acres which, for perspective, is the equivalent of 193 football fields within the bay.

From Mr Houston’s article…

Coast Seafoods — which is owned by the Portland-based Pacific Seafood — is currently the largest mariculture business operating in Humboldt Bay with a 300-acre operation in the northern portion of the bay. The proposed expansion would add 256 acres of intertidal oyster culturing to Coast Seafood’s operations in two phases.

Greg Dale is an operations manager for Coast Seafoods and is also a Harbor Commissioner.  Thankfully he will be recusing himself. As Mike Wilson’s seat has yet to be filled, all three commissioners which include Larry Doss, Patrick Higgins and Richard Marks will have to approve the expansion at tonight’s meeting.

From the article former CA Fish and Wildlife scientist Scott Frazer..

“They have failed to take into account the comments they have already been given and to accurately and appropriately address those comments. Many of us feel like we’re being basically ignored.”

From fox Greg Dale regarding our hen house…

“There has never been anybody doing more monitoring than what we’re doing now and what we’re proposing to do. Honestly, I think the folks that have advised us in this project and agencies that have worked on it have done quite a bit of work to reach some sort of solution to minimize any impacts, if there are impacts.”

For another perspective, here is a link to Dennis Halligan’s My Word from yesterday’s Times Standard.  He agrees with Mr. Dale that the net benefit of this expansion outweighs the costs.  I will say that this one excerpt makes me wonder if Mr. Halligan is being completely forthright.

For me, one of the ironies in this whole debate is that the Audubon Society has teamed up with the waterfowl hunters (I am a duck hunter) to stop this project. Both organizations are worried about the brant, which is a good thing. However, the waterfowlers are interested in maintaining or expanding eelgrass so they have more brant to shoot. Interesting dynamic/ strange bedfellows there.

Maybe there are some, maybe many, wildlife enthusiasts who would like to ban hunting, but it seems to me this group would be in the minority.  Our bay is an incredibly productive and complex ecosystem as is the human society that has developed along its shores.  This is about allowing a successful ecosystem to thrive alongside the demands of us humans.  That includes our human needs to feed ourselves (fisheries and oysters) and our need to recreate (hunt and photograph).

BTW, thank you to the reporting by the Times Standard and Will Houston. Also, if you, like me, don’t know a brant from Grant, here is an upset brant taking a “defensive posture”.  He (or she?) is looking at you Commissioners.  Let’s just step away and not piss her/him off any further.  We don’t want this to get ugly.



8 thoughts on “Coast Seafoods v Humboldt Bay.

  1. Henchman Of Justice says:

    The quote prior to the explanation of what the quote is affiliated with is not very clear for readers.

  2. Uri Driscoll says:

    Of the 222 comments submitted for this EIR there is not one expressing support.
    Even the mitigations proposed have problems. This is a bad deal for the bay, and hopefully there will be much more scrutiny over what the Harbor District is doing.
    BTW anyone know how much Coast Seafood donated to the Higgins campaign?
    Lets not forget that the Coast Seafood loaned the Harbor District $1.25 million. The District has only been paying the interest. That is like only paying the minimum on a credit card.

    I like oysters and it is a good use of the bay to a degree. What Mr. Halligan did not address was the brant are unlikely to be able to feed when they need to, because the lines are exposed.

    Besides I thought the intention of the Harbor District taking $200K from the Head Waters fund was supposed to help the small local oyster farmers. I would like to know if they spent it on the Coast Seafood EIR instead.

  3. Dennis Halligan says:

    I would like to start by saying that I do not work for the oyster industry or the Harbor District. I wrote what I did on my own with not prompting from anyone. I think people missed the point of what I was trying to say in my clunky way. I am not trying to single out any one proposed project, expansion, permitting process, or whatever. I think there is a way that oyster production (yes, even big operations) and eelgrass can co-exist. There is a long history of oyster farmers protecting the bay’s water quality that I think has been overlooked in this whole debate. Also, filter feeders, whether oysters, mussels, or clams also help with water quality. That’s just the way it is. It doesn’t mean I support or oppose these projects and twisting my words isn’t helpful for the process. Even though there are impacts on eelgrass associated with oyster farming (even small farmers), I believe that by working together good solutions can be found. The bickering back and forth, cherry-picking of data to support one position or another does not help anyone find solutions. I have always believed that if you bitch about something, then you should be prepared to suggest solutions. Otherwise, it is just bitching.

    Regarding the brant. I agree that as the tide falls in the oyster beds that brant will leave. They like unobstructed lines of sight and having oyster lines/baskets exposed during a falling tide obstructs their view, interrupts task assignments (lookouts, feeders, sleepers, etc.), and disrupts the cohesiveness and interaction between members of the flock. However, I think moving from the oyster beds to adjacent untouched eelgrass areas may not result in much of a biological/caloric cost for these birds, but I don’t know. They do lift off and go from one area to another probably a few times a day anyway, no matter where they are in the bay. Just because they move away from feeding in the oyster cultivation areas to another feeding area does not necessarily mean there is much of an impact. I have a feeling that the amount of feeding areas in Humboldt Bay are not limiting the populations of these birds, since there are vast expanses of eelgrass that seldom have birds feeding on them. I am not a brant biologist, but I do know something about biological limiting factors analyses. Perhaps conducting a limiting factors analysis on these birds would be useful.

    As I said before, I am a waterfowl hunter (deer, elk, squirrels, quail, pheasant, etc. also), and have been one for 50 years. As such, I do know the value of having a number of other hunters in the same general area that help keep the ducks moving around and not settling in one place. I do know that the birds get tired if they keep moving. I imagine the same is true for brant hunters, like those that hunt in the south bay and set up their blinds on the east side of the south spit; a sitting bird doesn’t provide a shot on the wing. Besides the direct taking of individual birds while hunting, what is the biological cost of keeping the rest of the flocks moving around? Is it of a similar, more, or less nature, as that which occurs on oyster cultivation/eelgrass beds? So, perhaps a study that looks at the caloric expense of moving around from hunting and disturbance associated with oyster farming could answer these questions. Or perhaps having all parties engage with each other to come up with sound solutions and measures would be helpful. For example, designating large areas of eelgrass within and between cultivation areas as being off limits to cultivation (much like the entire south bay) would give displaced birds a spot to rest, graze, and not be disturbed might be a good idea. I think engaging the brant hunters in this conversation would be very helpful. After all, they are the ones that know the flight patterns of these birds around the bay and would be an invaluable resource for identifying preferred areas that could be set aside.
    OK, I’m done now. Thanks for reading.

  4. Anonymous says:

    All of the other possible oyster farmers can ride the coat tails of Coasts very expensive expansion approval. Most of which could never afford such a burden. The current practices used by oyster farmers are environmentally friendly compared to past practices. The loan to the Harbor District for 1.25 million dollars was money needed to remove dangerous chemicals from the Pulp Mill. A site that is now revitalized thanks to the Harbor District’s stepping up to the task. A short few years ago the old LP mill was identified as the biggest looming threat to Humboldt Bay by the EPA. Pacific Choice seafoods and Coast employ many of our residents and are relayed on by local restaurants and commercial fishermen for markets and services.

    I feel this expansion project isn’t perfect by any means, but the burden of process that includes the approval of agencies like Fish and Wildlife and the Coastal Commission, will never allow the sort of recklessness with our bay that went on in the past. My own experience running around the bay at low tide is that more birds seem to be among the oyster racks feeding than out on the bare mud. None of South Humboldt Bay can be farmed and I think plenty of room will still be around for Hunters in North Bay. Let’s be cautious but proceed and support some new jobs for Humboldt Bay.

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