Kevin Lunny and daughter Brigid hug after learning of their eviction back in November. [Photo: James Cacciatore, Marin Independent Journal]
Drake's Bay Oyster Co.'s battle against its eviction by the National Park Service has been dealt another setback; yesterday, a federal judge denied the company's request to have its removal from the Point Reyes National Seashore overturned. The judge also denied owner Kevin Lunny's request to have the lease extended for another 10 years, an option that Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar had at his disposal but had chosen not to use. March 15 still looms as the eviction date for the oyster farmers of Drake's.
For those who haven't been following the story, a quick recap: Salazar announced in November that he would not be extending Drake's 40-year lease on the Drake's Estero of the Point Reyes National Seashore. This was in keeping with a 1976 act of Congress that protected the seashore, and was based on accusations that the company's motorboats and equipment threaten nearby harbor seals and pollute the water. While Drake's attempted to fire back with the help of powerful friends like Sen. Dianne Feinstein and the National Academy of Sciences, who alleged that the Park Service was exaggerating the farm's negative impact on the surrounding waters, yesterday's ruling makes it unlikely that the business will survive in its current state. Drake's has 30 employees, many of whom live on the property, and several of whom possess special skills in seafood handling and processing that may not be applicable elsewhere in California; all will lose their jobs and some their homes if the eviction goes through.
Amber Abbasi, the attorney for Drake's, told the AP that the Lunny family is currently weighing its options and will make a decision in the next few days. A March closure would mean the loss of California's largest commercial shellfish operation, producing 40 percent of all California oysters (far more than the companies in nearby Tomales Bay); oyster prices in the Bay Area are likely to rise as a result. Ranching and farming operations at the Point Reyes National Seashore, on the other hand, have received a temporary reprieve from Salazar, who'll allow them to extend their leases for another 10 to 20 years.