Mad River Union
HUMBOLDT – Coast Seafoods expects final approval this fall of state and federal certifications of its shellfish harvesting permit through September, 2025.
The North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have the final say, after the California Coastal Commission approved a greatly revised farming plan Sept. 14 at a meeting in Cambria, San Luis Obispo County.
The extensive revisions mandate the company to reduce its Humboldt Bay footprint by roughly 21 acres (300 to 279) and shift 42 acres over to the western areas of the bay near Bird Island and Mad River Slough.
Over a period of about two-and-a half years, the company’s total operational footprint would be scaled back and reconfigured by nearly one-third.
To that end, Coast Seafoods would confined to about 279 acres of intertidal oyster aquaculture and deploy 30 existing floating shellfish cultivation rafts for the next eight years.
Buttressing the scale-back, the Coastal Commission imposed 12 strict conditions on the company’s bay operations to meet the demands for stronger safety and accountability by environmentalists, wildlife advocates, hunters and boaters.
Nixing Coast Seafoods’ original proposal to enlarge its 300-acre farm by some 260 acres, the commission’s renewal permit protects several thousand acres from further development.
The company must:
• Carry out an eelgrass monitoring plan with a five-year term
• Monitor black brant foraging in eelgrass beds
• Submit a Vessel Management Plan with a map showing the travel routes and landing or cultivation bed access sites that the company’s vessels use in cultivation areas; and set forth procedures to limit the herding or flushing of black brant or shorebirds.
• Conduct visual inspections December through February, to determine if Pacific herring has spawned on eelgrass, on aquaculture materials or in substrate. The inspections must comply with the survey protocols of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW).
• Report by Dec. 31 each year on planting and harvesting dates and on actions to prevent the loss of shellfish cultivation baskets. The company must also account for lost equipment that is recovered.
• Patrol all active harvesting areas after a storm or high winds and recover lost or damaged aquaculture equipment. It is Coast Seafoods’ responsibility to retrieve all such equipment and debris from the shoreline. All unmarked gear has to be marked within 18 months and employees have to be trained in debris retrieval. Clean-ups must be recorded and documented.
• Avoid water-going operations during black brant hunting days, typically Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays from early November to mid-December.
• In the event Coast Seafoods discovers any Native American human remains, burial goods, archaeological objects or other cultural resources, Eureka Operations Manager Greg Dale will serve as the point of contact.
When an archaeological resource is uncovered in ground-disturbance operations, the company must immediately notify the Tribal Historic Preservation Officers (THPO’s) designated by the Blue Lake Rancheria, the Bear River Band of Rohnerville Rancheria and the Wiyot Tribe.
“As soon as feasible after such a discovery,” the Coastal Commission stipulates, the company “shall retain a qualified archaeologist with local experience to consult with Commission staff, the Harbor District, the three THPOs, Coast [Seafoods] and other applicable regulatory agencies to employ best practices for assessing the significance of the find and developing and implementing a mitigation plan if avoidance is not feasible.”
Ground-disturbance farming operations are to be halted immediately if potentially significant historic or archaeological materials are discovered. Examples include, but are not limited to, concentrations of historic artifacts (e.g., bottles, ceramics); prehistoric artifacts (chipped chert or obsidian, arrow points, groundstone mortars and pestles); culturally altered ash-stained midden soils associated with pre-contact Native American habitation sites; concentrations of fire-altered rock and burned or charred organic materials; historic structure remains such as stone-lined building foundations, wells or privy pits.