Environment and Awareness

Egret Near Drakes Bay

An Egret strolls near Drakes Bay Family Farms

The Role of Shellfish in Drakes Bay

Clean water has been called the lifeblood of the shellfish industry. Perhaps less well known is the critical role that shellfish play in keeping clean the very waters in which they live. Shellfish perform functions in the coastal ecosystem similar to the role that kidneys play helping to filter and regulate the flow of blood in the human body. In the ecosystem, mature oysters can filter as much as 55 gallons of water a day. Healthy populations of shellfish can filter a substantial fraction of an estuary's water on a daily basis, and in the process help regulate vital flows of nutrients and energy in the overall coastal system.

Shellfish are integral components of the coastal ecosystem, so much so that some ecologists view oyster beds and oyster reefs as the outstanding communities of the estuary. The interactions between shellfish beds and other organisms and elements of the coastal ecosystem are numerous and complex. Environmental factors such as water temperature, salinity, food availability, substrate and predators determine the distribution, abundance and condition of different shellfish species. In similar but reverse fashion, shellfish exert a dramatic influence on the character and condition of the estuarine environment, providing three-dimensional structure and habitat for plant and animal life of all kinds and playing particularly important roles in the uptake and recycling of energy and nutrients.

Scientists believe that the Chesapeake Bay's once-flourishing oyster populations historically filtered the estuary's entire water volume of excess nutrients every three or four days. Today that process would take almost a year. Sediment, nutrients, and algae can cause problems in Bay waters. Oysters filter these pollutants, and either eat them or shape them into small packets that are deposited on the bottom where they are harmless.

Drakes Bay Family Farms Cattle Ranch

The ranch, known also as the Historic G Ranch, is situated in the heart of the Point Reyes National Seashore, with the Pacific Ocean bordering one side of the ranch and Drake’s Estero bordering the opposite side. This moist, marine environment, combined with some of the finest soils in California, provides for excellent pasture productivity. The grass has always been the foundation of the food production on this ranch, as well as on the balance of the ranches on the Point Reyes Peninsula. Most of the time that the Lunny family has been on this ranch was spent producing milk in their grade A dairy. In the mid 1970’s, the dairy cows were sold and all their focus turned to their beef cattle herd. Today, Lunnys produce certified organic and certified grass-fed beef on their certified organic pastures.