Healthy Tomales Bay 

background: why Tomales Bay and its Watershed are so unique

Tomales Bay is a long narrow inlet of the Pacific Ocean approximately 15 miles long and averages nearly 1.0 mile wide, which effectively separates the Point Reyes Peninsula from the mainland of Marin County. The bay forms the eastern boundary of Point Reyes National Seashore, and was formed along a submerged portion of the San Andreas Fault. The bay is recognized for protection by the California Bays and Estuaries Policy and is managed for competing interests including tourism, six aquaculture operations, birding, fishing, boating, nearby agriculture, and recreation.

EAC has been working to protect Tomales Bay and its watershed since 1971, including securing its nomination as the 19th USA Ramsar site, or international wetland of importance in 2002 (nomination and update) and a sail-in protest to protect the Giacomini Wetlands. We remain active in the legacy of Tomales Bay protection, including our current work on aquaculture best management practices (BMPs), and monitoring new aquaculture leases along the bay. We work collaboratively with many stakeholders, including our active role in the Tomales Bay Watershed Council and through our Waters Advisory Committee, which has developed a set of guiding principles for our work on Tomales Bay and Bolinas Lagoon issues. As part of our Healthy Tomales Bay campaign, we are committed to the long-term health of the Tomales Bay watershed. 

The application is incomplete, ambiguous, nearly illegible and contains several inconsistencies.
— Ashley Eagle-Gibbs, EAC's Conservation Director before the Fish and Game Commission in 2017
free oyster image from morguefile.jpg

new aquaculture lease
first proposal in 25 years

In the end of 2016, a new aquaculture (shellfish) lease was proposed. This is the first new lease proposal in over 25 years. The application, submitted by San Andreas Shellfish company, to the Fish and Game Commission (F&G Commission) proposes a lease in an area that will likely impact harbor seals, birds, eelgrass, vessel traffic, and public access.

EAC testified at the February 2017 F&G Commission hearing, requesting a re-submittal. Despite our testimony, the F&G Commission marked the application as received, primarily as a procedural matter. 

The application is now with the Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) for their review on behalf of the F&G Commission. According the the regulations, "No state leases shall be issued unless the Commission determines that the lease is in the public interest in a public hearing conducted in a fair and transparent matter, with notice and comment..." CDFW will help the F&G Commission make this determination by preparing a report. As of July 2018, CDFW staff stated that they had been in communications with San Andreas Shellfish company and were waiting for a revised project description and map from the applicant. 

We are fully engaged in the public process surrounding this lease application and have been in contact with F&G Commission, the CDFW, the California Coastal Commission, the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, and other Tomales Bay advocates and stakeholders to ensure coastal resources are not harmed by the proposed lease. We will keep our members informed on the status of the application, next steps, and opportunities for public involvement in online action alerts.

More Information regarding the proposed lease: 

Lease Application
EAC February 2017 comment letter

Best Management Practices (BMPs) are general overarching principles and specific procedures used to guide the day-to-day operation of aquaculture businesses to improve production while preserving the environment.
— NOAA Fisheries (1)



EAC is in regular contact with the CDFW and other stakeholders on the formal rulemaking process, which is expected to continue this Winter. The next steps in this process likely include an additional stakeholder call and update at the next Marine Resources Committee meeting in 2019. The issuance of an Initial Statement of Reasons (ISOR) is anticipated in 2019. The ISOR will officially begin the formal rulemaking process.

aquaculture best management practices (BMPs)

Due in part to EAC's advocacy, stakeholders are working together to develop BMPs for the aquaculture or shellfish industry. Following a well-attended meeting at Marconi Conference Center in July 2017, the F&G Commission has undertaken the preliminary steps in a formal rulemaking process, which will continue in 2019. EAC continues its involvement in the BMP development process and advocates for measurable and enforceable BMPs, mandatory clean ups, and employee training to ensure that marine pollution is reduced and ideally eliminated. We look forward to continued and expanded work with our local partners on this important issue. 

On October 25, 2018, EAC represented the environmental interest along with a member of our Waters Advisory Committee, participating at an additional stakeholder meeting in Santa Rosa. Then on November 14, 2018, Ashley Eagle-Gibbs, EAC’s Conservation Director, traveled to Sacramento with a member of our Waters Advisory Committee to continue to advocate for BMPs to the Fish and Game Commission’s Marine Resources Committee (MRC).

The rulemaking is supported by the recently released Ocean Protection Council’s Final 2018 California Ocean Litter Prevention Strategy, which EAC commented on. 

To further advocate for BMPs or conditions, EAC is also supportive of the addition of conditions in aquaculture growers California Coastal Commission Coastal Development Permits (CDP). EAC submitted supportive comments for the CDP amendments made to Marin Oyster Company Inc.’s permit in May 2018.

Resources & More Information regarding the BMP Rulemaking & Special Conditions:

EAC Comment Letters to the FGC: February, March, July 2017
Joint Letter with Hog Island Oyster Co., February 2018
November 2018

EAC Comment Letters to the California Coastal Commission re: special conditions: May 2018


Notes and Materials Generated & Presented at the July 2017 BMP Stakeholder Meeting in Marshall, CA: 
FGC Notes Detailing Flip Charts, BMP Stakeholder Brainstorm, Parking Lot Items During Brainstorm, Department of Fish and Wildlife Presentation 

May 2018 BMP Stakeholder Meeting in Southern California: Agenda & background materials, Meeting materials & presentations, Meeting summary 

July 2018 Marine Resources Committee Meeting, Staff presentation re. BMPs

October 2018 BMP Stakeholder Meeting in Santa Rosa: Notice/flyer, Agenda, background handout

November 2018 Marine Resources Committee Meeting: Agenda, Meeting Materials, Meeting Audio

Fish and Game Commission 2019 meetings and public comment opportunities

CDFW Aquaculture Page 

 Marine debris collected by EAC and volunteers, which was re-purposed for an art show 2015-2016

Marine debris collected by EAC and volunteers, which was re-purposed for an art show 2015-2016

 "Reality" by Casey Fritz, EAC MPA Watch Intern, 2015-16

"Reality" by Casey Fritz, EAC MPA Watch Intern, 2015-16

research & Advocacy: marine debris and eelgrass 

Marine debris is a problem threatening our world's waterways, including Tomales Bay and its watershed. One way EAC is working to combat marine debris is through its work above on BMPs and through our No Straw, Please campaign

EAC is also engaged with CDFW and the F&G Commission to advocate for the clean up of any legacy marine debris in Tomales Bay. EAC also holds annual trash clean ups, reducing trash from our watershed and directly from Tomales Bay.  Learn more about how you can participate in EAC's Coastal Clean Up Day or Litter Bugs Me

Tomales Bay is a sensitive eelgrass habitat. Marine flowering plants, or seagrasses, such as eel grass or surf grass provide homes to many marine creatures. EAC is closely monitoring eelgrass research taking place on the Bay. You can count on EAC to remain engaged and critical in its review. 

Eelgrass Research Resources: 

Marine Debris & Ocean Litter Resources:


1. Shellfish Aquaculture, NOAA Fisheries