A last gasp effort in Drakes Bay Oyster Company’s epic legal battle to stay open will take place this Thursday, when the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals takes up owner Kevin Lunny’s final appeal.
A failed appeal means Drakes Bay’s shucking days will be over within a month, by March 15. The loss of the Point Reyes farm that accounts for 40 percent of the state’s oysters, plus a demand for the aphrodisiac-inducing seafood that shows no signs of slowing down, equals big problems for California’s oyster and restaurant industries.
In November, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar ruled against extending Drakes Bay’s 40-year lease stating the land should be returned back to wilderness status as environmentalists and park officials claimed the oyster farm’s boats and equipment are threatening nearby animals and polluting the waters.
Fellow oyster farmer, Co-owner and president of Hog Island Oyster Co., John Finger told the San Francisco Chronicle:
“I’ve never met demand in 30 years of business, and this is going to exacerbate the problem…It’s just unfortunate that we’re losing a really great producer of sustainable seafood in an era when we import 80 percent of our seafood.”
Importing will only increase if Drakes Bay closes. Larger shucked oysters might have to be imported from Washington, according to the Marin IJ. And they will most certainly come with a higher price tag than those that Drakes Bay currently provides.
At Hog Island in the Ferry Building, the cheapest you can currently snag is six oysters for $15.
This opens a pandora’s box of issues, said Douglas Bernstein, executive chef at Fish in Sausalito. He told the Marin IJ:
“We are talking about getting oysters in 45 minutes from Drakes Bay versus 14 hours. And it costs more to get them sent here and you have an impact on the environment because of the transportation needed. You also are talking about the quality of the product. From Drakes Bay you get them as soon as they are out of the water. There are a lot of impacts to this.”
Bernstein also said consumers won’t feel the financial impact immediately, because restaurants will field the initial blow. However, oyster prices are already inching up, demand isn’t slowing down and there is already a shortage of oysters on the West Coast.