An independent study by the National Academy of Sciences spells out just what impact the Drakes Bay Oyster Company has on the environmentally sensitive Drakes Estero in the Point Reyes National Seashore.
"There are suggestions of effects, but the data are inadequate," scientist Charles Peterson said.
Peterson headed up the team of scientists to evaluate whether the company was hurting the fragile waters of Drakes Estero.
In a 2007 report, the Park Service claims the oyster company was negatively impacting the environment. The Park Service report included claims that harbor seals were disturbed by workers, the oysters dirtied the estero and plant life in the water was being harmed.
The report was pulled after questions were raised about its claims.
"The Park Service released a whole series of reports with the same title, "Drake's Estero, A Sheltered Wilderness Estuary," each of the at least four reports that we saw that were different, were different, none of those reports adequately dealt with the science," Peterson said.
Not only did the Academy report find that the Park Service over interpreted data about seal disturbances, they also found that aquatic plant life actually thrived. The Academy report goes on to point out that the Park Service left out valuable data in its study. It failed to point out that oysters were historically in Drakes Estero, but overfished beginning with the Gold Rush. The report also says native Olympia oysters "probably played an important role in structuring the estuary's ecosystem for millennia."
The National Park Service was quick to respond to the Academy's findings.
"We definitely apologize for any exaggerations or misrepresentations that may have been put out in any publication," National Park Service spokesperson John Dell'Osso said. "So we just want to hear that report, look at the some recommendations; for example they talked about doing additional scientific studies, we are all for that."
The owners of Drakes Bay Oyster Company find some relief in the findings, and now they want to make sure they get the truth out there.
"It really proves that all those claims that the Park Service made were all false, so it's actually frightening, because those false claims spread like a virus," Drakes Bay Oyster Company spokesperson Kevin Lunny said.
The National Park Service has said that it will not renew the oyster farm's lease when in expires in 2012. It says the law requires the area to be returned to wilderness, but Sen. Diane Feinstein reacted quickly Tuesday, asking the Department of Interior to acknowledge the Academy's findings and renew the farm's lease beyond 2012.
Written and produced by Ken Miguel