Point Reyes Oyster Farm Gets Its Day in Court

(BCN) Calling Drakes Bay Oyster Co. a “shining example of sustainable agriculture,” a lawyer for the business urged a federal appeals court in San Francisco today to allow the company to keep operating.

Drakes Bay Oyster Co. workers harvest strings of oysters on Schooner Bay near Point Reyes. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Drakes Bay Oyster Co. workers harvest strings of oysters on Schooner Bay near Point Reyes. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Attorney Amber Abbasi argued that former U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar “ignored the public interest in preserving an 80-year-old farm” when he declined last year to extend the company’s permit to operate in Point Reyes National Seashore.

Company owners Kevin and Nancy Lunny are asking the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to issue a preliminary injunction that would enable the farm to continue harvesting oysters while the owners challenge Salazar’s action in a federal trial court.

A three-judge panel of the appeals court took the case under submission after hearing arguments this morning and will issue a written decision at a later date.

The farm grows oysters on 1,000 acres of submerged land in Drakes Estero, an estuary of Drakes Bay, and packages them on 1.5 acres of land along the shoreline. It says it produces more than a third of all oysters grown in California.

The Interior Department contends that a 2009 law gave Salazar discretion to decide whether to continue the permit beyond 2012, and that he had the authority to decide the area should return to wilderness.

Justice Department attorney David Gunter argued that the Lunnys and a predecessor company, Johnson Oyster Co., reached a bargain with the government when the farm received a 40-year permit in 1962.

“They got their 40 years,” Gunter told the appeals court.

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