Coalition Hails National Academy of Sciences Report as Confirmation of National Park Service Concerns at Drakes Estero in Point Reyes National Seashore

 
PRESS RELEASE
  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date:   May 5, 2009
Contact:   Neal Desai, National Parks Conservation Association, 510-368-0845
Gordon Bennett, Sierra Club, 415-663-1881
Fred Smith, Environmental Action Committee of West Marin, 415-663-9312


Coalition Hails National Academy of Sciences Report as Confirmation of National Park Service Concerns at Drakes Estero in Point Reyes National Seashore

San Francisco, Calif. - A broad coalition of organizations today praised the new report published by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) for affirming the majority of the National Park Service’s concerns that a commercial oyster business operating in a protected wilderness area within Point Reyes National Seashore may be harming the park’s water, wildlife, and other natural treasures. The NAS report noted that regardless of scientific data, the oyster company is scheduled to be removed when the company’s rights to operate expire in 2012 so that Drakes Estero can be managed in accordance with wilderness law.

"The Save Drakes Bay Coalition thanks the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) for a comprehensive report," said Neal Desai with the National Parks Conservation Association. "This report confirms the concerns of the National Park Service, which is working diligently to protect Drakes Estero and all of Point Reyes National Seashore."

The NAS report cautions that the National Park Service lacks essential funding to conduct studies that would prove definitively the impact of the commercial oyster operation on the greater Drakes Estero ecosystem. Further, the report argues that due to the limited studies available, "from a management perspective, lack of evidence of major adverse effects is not the same as proof of no adverse effects nor is it a guarantee that such effects will not manifest in the future."

"The National Park Service is mandated to protect our natural resources," said Gordon Bennett of the Sierra Club. "In order to protect this vital wilderness area, it is imperative that the Park Service continues to focus its resources and use the precautionary principle to minimize any impacts the commercial oyster operation may have on Drakes Estero."

In the absence of long-term studies, the NAS report recommends a number of precautionary actions that include potentially increasing the 100 meter distance that oyster operations now maintain from seal haulouts "to reduce types of disturbance that affect behavior during the breeding season." The report also urgently recommends additional research on the spread of non-native invasive species such as Didemnum, found on the oysters and racks. Recently, Didemnum was found smothering eelgrass in Tomales Bay, the first time it has been documented in the bay’s eelgrass, an important ecological component of healthy commercial and recreational fisheries.

Located within Point Reyes National Seashore, Drakes Estero is the only wilderness estuary on the West Coast of the continental United States. The landmark Point Reyes Wilderness Act, passed by Congress in 1976, designated thousands of acres as wilderness, including Drakes Estero, and was widely supported by the public. Prior to buying Johnson’s Oyster Co., the Drake's Bay Oyster Company was notified that it would be mandated to remove the operation in 2012 due to Park Service laws and policies, consistent with wilderness designation. The company has said it would like to remain, which could set a national precedent if the national park’s wilderness designation is diminished for commercial interests.

The coalition encourages efforts of the American Land Conservancy and Drake's Bay Oyster Company to find a solution that would maintain the integrity of the park, and America’s national wilderness system.

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