"When you put your hand in a flowing stream, you touch the last that has gone before and the first that is still to come."
Leonardo da Vinci
The San Francisco Bay is the largest estuary on the West Coast of the U.S. where fresh water from the Central Valley mixes with the salt water of the Pacific. Crabs, clams, fish and birds live in its deepwater channels, marshes and tidelands.

Grow (and Eat) Your Own Oysters

A Conversation with a Pickleweed Point Oyster Farmer

The Watershed Project's Executive Director Linda Hunter recently made a trip out to Tomales Bay to visit our newest fiscally sponsored project: The Pickleweed Point Community Oyster Farm, directed by local Aquaculturist Luc Chamberland. Her interview with Luc gives some great insight into the exciting world below bay waters.

Linda Hunter: Hi Luc, what's the community oyster farm all about?

Luc Chamberland: The community oyster farm is about getting community members involved in growing oysters in Tomales Bay so they can better understand and embrace the importance of water quality. Their involvement exposes them to the basic elements of shellfish farming and the importance of shellfish in maintaining a healthy ecosystem.

LH: How did you get involved with The Watershed Project and with oyster farming?

LC: I became involved with The Watershed Project as a volunteer. I was drawn to The Watershed Project while attending a poster session at the 2009 State of the Estuary Conference held in Oakland last fall. I was impressed by The Watershed Project and its groundbreaking work with native oyster restoration projects in San Francisco and San Pablo Bays. I felt that The Watershed Project focused its energies on thoughtful initiatives rather than politics. They WOWED me!

I've been involved in shellfish farming for close to twenty years, first as an abalone farmer and more recently as a shareholder in a small oyster farm located in Tomales Bay.

LH: How does bivalve cultivation benefit the marine environment?

LC: Bivalves benefit the marine environment through their filtering activities. They remove suspended materials in the water column that can reduce turbidity and consequently allow more light to reach submerged aquatic plants such as sea grasses. These sea grasses and the bivalve biomass provide nursery habitat for a diversity of fish and invertebrate species.

LH: What educational opportunities does oyster farming offer to local youth?

LC: Community shellfish farm participants, both young and not-so-young, can learn about the basics of shellfish farming through our eight-hour shellfish farming training program. This program is based on four two-hour sessions that are offered throughout the year and included as part of our benefit package for members. We strive to educate our members through hands-on shellfish farming practices. Our group activities include oyster farm tours and presentations by visiting biologists and researchers. We also encourage participation in monthly restoration activities throughout the greater Sand Francisco Bay Area. We're working with The Watershed Project's Living Shoreline Initiative Manager Chris Lim to develop curriculum for middle and high school students.

LH: Do you accept visitors to the visit the farm?

LC: Interested parties can visit the farm by appointment starting in August 2010. You can contact the farm via e-mail at luc@thewatershedproject.org.

LH: Where can we buy oysters from Pickleweed Point Community Farm?

LC: Oysters from Pickleweed Point Community Shellfish Farm are not yet available for sale to the public. Although individual members can eat the oysters they grow, sales to the public will require certification. This process is somewhat lengthy for a new farm, but we anticipate that it should be completed by the end of 2010. This certification will allow Pickleweed Point Community Shellfish Farm to start selling its oysters in 2011.

If native oyster restoration sounds like an exciting project, then here is your opportunity to get involved. The Watershed Project and the Oyster Working Group need your assistance in monitoring native oysters in the San Francisco Bay. We will be sampling in the field on August 7-12, 2010 and then counting and measuring oysters on August 12, 2010. If you are interested, please contact Chris at chris@thewatershedproject.org.