The Tomales Bay Oyster Company, a plaintiff in the case, statedin papers filed in support for a Motion for a Temporary RestrainingOrder and Preliminary Injunction that the company stands to losebetween $250-$400 thousand a year if the Drakes Bay Oyster Companyis shut down.
Charles “Tod” Friend, owner of the Tomales Bay Oyster Company,stated, “I’ve been involved in the West Marin oyster farming forthirty-five years. This is a close-knit community. We depend oneach other. If they close down Drakes Bay, it is not only theLunnys and all of their hard-working employees who will suffer.”Mr. Friend explained that Tomales Bay Oyster Company grows oystersitself, but depends on Drakes Bay Oyster Company when customerdemand at their retail operations on shores of Tomales Bayoutstrips what they can grow.
These sentiments were echoed by longtime West Marin resident andmanager at Drakes Bay Oyster Company, Loretta Murphy, also aplaintiff. “Drakes Bay Oyster Company and the oyster farm workersare an integral part of the community fabric. If the oyster farm isforced to close and the oyster workers lose their housing and moveto other areas it will be a large negative impact on the localschool, the local church, and countless businesses, shops andrestaurants. The loss of these jobs will mean upheaval for over 40family members and there will be much collateral damage from such alarge change in such a small town.”
The list of restaurants joining Tomales Bay Oyster Company andLoretta Murphy as plaintiffs read like a who’s who of the WestMarin farm-to-table culinary scene, including Margaret Grade of Sirand Star, Osteria Stellina, Saltwater Oyster Depot, and CafReyes.
Luc Chamberland, owner of the Saltwater Oyster Depot inInverness, emphasized the importance of Drakes Bay oysters in theability of his restaurant and others to deliver what theirclientele has come to expect. “I and the other West Marinrestaurateurs have built our reputations on providing anexceedingly fresh farm-to-table experience in a location that isremarkably close to one of the most urbanized places in thecountry. Closing Drakes Bay Oyster Company threatens our ability todo that.”
Stuart G. Gross of Gross Law, lead attorney for the plaintiffs.explained that the suit is fundamentally about ensuring thatgovernment agencies follow the law. “The Secretary of the Interiorexplicitly declared himself exempt from all legal requirements indeciding whether to close Drakes Bay Oyster Company. This waswrong. There are laws that he was required to follow, and hedidn’t. This suit seeks to compel his compliance.”
Drakes Bay Oyster Company provides between one third and half ofall oysters grown in California and as much as 70% of the oystersgrown in Marin County. The nearest other growers to the SanFrancisco Bay area are hundreds of miles away. The suit allegesthat the Department of the Interior and the National Park Serviceignored their responsibilities under the National Aquaculture Actand the Coastal Management Act and disregarded the public trustrights of the people of California and California’s enforceablepolicies against conversion of coastal areas from agriculturaluse.
Also joining as plaintiffs are Alliance for Local SustainableAgriculture (ALSA), Dr. Jeffrey Creque, founding member of ALSA,the Hayes Street Grill, and its co-owner and local food advocate,Patricia Unterman. Also named as a defendant is an office ofNOAA.
Gross Law is located at Pier 9 on The Embarcadero in SanFrancisco, California. Gross Law represents clients in naturalresource, environmental, commercial, and business practiceslitigation throughout the United States.