For nearly a century oystermen and women farmed their shellfish in the pristine waters of Drakes Estero—a beautifully rugged area of western Marin County, California, and where Sir Francis Drake was believed to first set foot in what is now America.
On November 30, 2012, the Secretary of the Interior decided not to renew the lease of the Drakes Bay Oyster Company—the largest oyster farm and last remaining oyster cannery in California. The basis for this controversial decision was to return Drakes Estero to a wilderness area. It was also based on questionable environmental impact studies and politics.
After a lengthy and divisive legal battle that pitted friends and neighbors against each other, the United States Supreme Court declined to hear the case. As a result, the oyster farm closed in late 2014, and was bulldozed in early 2015. More than 20 hardworking oystermen and women lost their jobs (some had worked there more than 20 years). More than a dozen workers who lived on the premises were also forced to move, uprooting children from the only home they had ever known.
These images are a glimpse into the final months of a Californian tradition, the once-beautiful coexistence of nature and sustainable food production and the forcible end of a way of life for many hard-working people.
© Jon A. Soliday Photography