The California Coastal Commission voted 6-5 this week in Arcata to reject Coast Seafood Company’s bid to expand what commission staff called the state’s largest shellfish farming operation.


After hearing several hours of public testimony and staff reports debating the expansion project’s potential impacts to the Humboldt Bay’s ecosystems and recreational uses, Commissioner Mary Shallenberger urged her colleagues to vote no on the 165-acre expansion because she felt it was “way too big” and had too many unknowns.


Opponents to the project — such as Audubon California — applauded the commission’s vote. Audubon California filed a lawsuit against the project earlier this year challenging Coast Seafoods’ environmental review of the expansion and claimed the project would irreparably impact eelgrass in the bay.


Humboldt Baykeeper Director Jennifer Kalt said the commission’s denial was surprising due to aquaculture being a priority of the California Coastal Act.


“The oyster industry has come a long way since the days of killing bat rays and dredging eelgrass off the mud flats in the 1990s,” Kalt said Thursday. “And it actively protects water quality, which is critical for oysters, eelgrass and many other aquatic species. We hope the project can be further refined to address outstanding concerns.”


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