Park Service Scientists at Point Reyes Vindicated yet Again

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Park Service Scientists at Point Reyes Vindicated yet Again

Marine Mammal Commission Confirms Shellfish Operation Effect on Seals

Washington, DC — Concerns raised by National Park Service scientists evaluating the environmental effects of a controversial commercial oyster operation at the Point Reyes National Seashore have been confirmed by the Marine Mammal Commission in a report released today.  This new report is now the fifth review that has validated Park Service handling of the shellfish enterprise operating in one of the most ecologically sensitive parts of the national seashore, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

The Drake’s Bay Oyster Company was supposed to relocate its operations by 2012 because it is located in Drake’s Estero, which is designated by law as potential wilderness with a required phase-out of all commercial operations.  The company and its allies have waged an all-out campaign to prevent the relocation of the business, including legislation authorizing Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to waive requirements of the Wilderness Act by extending a new lease to the business.

The Park Service has issued a Draft Environmental Impact Statement which recommends the permit be terminated.  A key issue is the commercial operation’s impact on seals. The Marine Mammal Commission, an independent agency of the U.S government, reviewed prior Park Service analyses and found that, while available data “have been stretched to its limits,” the agency conclusions are supported:

  • Negative impacts on seal “are at least correlated” to commercial activities.  Longer term study would be needed to cement a causal link;
  • Drop of seal population in the Estero coincided with oyster harvests; and
  • The scientific basis for the critique of Park Service analyses by the company and its allies does not hold water and relies on “inconsistent” models and statistical procedures.

This Marine Mammal Commission report follows two previous investigations by the Interior Office of Inspector General, one by the Solicitor’s Office and one by the National Academies of Science, all of which found no scientific misconduct by the Park Service in regard to the shellfish company.

“Hopefully, this latest report will finally snuff out the political jihad waged against Park Service scientists at Point Reyes,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch whose organization defends government specialists targeted for retaliation for defending environmental resources.  “The report shows there is reason to be concerned about the effects of commercial shellfish operations on the marine environment – especially in a national seashore.”

Never before has the National Park Service or Congress authorized a commercial enterprise within areas designated as wilderness or potential wilderness in an area of the national park system.

“Point Reyes is one of the superlative gems of our national park system,” Ruch added, noting a recent California Coastal Commission citation of the oyster company for allegedly disturbing marine mammals and improperly disposing of debris and abandoned equipment.  “To place the interests of one commercial enterprise over the integrity of Point Reyes National Seashore and our national park system would be most unfortunate.”

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