The Oyster War: A Parallel Universe

The book “The Oyster War” by Summer Brennan is subtitled “The True Story…” If only it were. The title refers to the decade-long battle between the National Park Service — bolstered by some in the environmental community — and an 80-year old family-run oyster farm, which started at Point Reyes National Seashore and ended on the steps of the Supreme Court. The oyster farm — and scientific integrity — ultimately lost the war.

The battle revealed fault lines between wilderness activists and sustainable farming advocates in the largely green community of West Marin, California, and became the poster child for scientific misconduct and lack of a meaningful federal scientific integrity policy.

Unfortunately, while Brennan’s book aspires to tell the definitive account of what transpired, it offers readers a biased, inaccurate, and incomplete picture of that battle. Even worse, Brennan disregards and misrepresents important facts, conveniently downplays or ignores the egregious abuse of science by the oyster farm’s detractors, and fails to interview key actors. The book is brimming with hundreds of errors.

The factual problems are evident from the very beginning. The first chapter opens with a colorful story of the author’s tour in 2013 of the oyster beds in Drakes Estero with a farm worker she calls “Oscar” (name changed to protect his identity). She writes that Oscar invited her out on the boat, which upset his manager, who shortly thereafter fired Oscar. A heartfelt story of, as Brennan calls it, “one more casualty in the oyster war.”

The only problem, according to Oscar, is that it’s not true. Oscar’s real name is Hugo Soto. According to Kevin Lunny, owner of the oyster farm, Brennan presented herself to Hugo falsely; she claimed she had been cleared by Lunny —> Read More