Oyster farm's closure could lead to higher prices

  • on Wednesday, 12 5, 2012. At G and G Market, meat department worker Reuben Caballero places Drakes Bay Oyster Farm oysters in their display case, Wednesday, Dec 4, 2012 in Santa Rosa. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2012

The pending closure of the largest oyster farm on the Marin County coast could lead to higher prices for shellfish and force grocery stores and restaurants to seek new suppliers.

Five remaining Point Reyes-area oyster farms are poised to capitalize on the looming departure of Drakes Bay Oyster Co., which was ordered last week to close within 90 days.

But devotees of the briny delicacies expressed unhappiness Wednesday at the prospect of losing a major North Coast supplier.

Carlo Cavallo, executive chef and owner of Meritage in Sonoma, said the coming shutdown, ordered by U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, will force him to fly in oysters from Oregon and Washington.

"Let the boys at the secretary's office and the Obama administration calculate the carbon footprint on that," said Cavallo, who like many restaurateurs serves hundreds of Drakes Bay oysters each week. "I'm furious about it."

Teejay Lowe, chief executive officer of G&G Supermarkets, agreed the loss of the farm owned by Kevin and Nancy Lunny is a blow to the local seafood industry.

Drakes Bay oysters make up the majority of the oysters sold at G&G, which has stores in Santa Rosa and Petaluma. Customers ask for them by name, he said.

"Local oysters truly are an art," Lowe said. "They did a really good job. It was a draw to our markets."

Last week, the Lunnys were given 90 days to pack up and leave the oyster farm, which has been in operation for about 80 years on the shores of Drakes Estero in the Point Reyes National Seashore.

At the urging of environmentalists, Salazar decided to return the 1,100 acres to wilderness and rejected Lunny's request to extend the farm's 40-year permit. Among the concerns was that the mariculture business on public land and water hurt harbor seals and eelgrass.

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