2013 Why Shellfish Aquaculture should concern all Gulf Islanders

Preseneted by the Gulf Islands Alliance

Gulf Islands Shellfish Tour - November 4 to 9, 2013  
Slideshow at the Pender Island Community Hall  Saturday, November 9  2PM

The Gulf Islands Alliance (GIA) is pleased to sponsor the Let's Talk Shellfish Aquaculture tour by the Association for Denman Island Marine Stewards.

Denman's frustrations are not unlike what many Gulf Islanders face in trying to persuade governments at all levels to truly protect the Islands Trust area.  And while Denman and adjacent Baynes Sound are the centre of the shellfish industry in BC, the issues there should concern all islanders because of the industry's promised expansion and current lack of regulation.  90% of the beaches in Baynes Sound are now leased to the Shellfish Industry.  

The geoduck expansion is likely the largest shellfish concern for other gulf Islands. Senior governments are now promoting this expansion in Georgia Strait waters.  DFO’s geoduck management areas already envelope most of Denman, all of Gabriola, Valdez, Thetis, and the north half of Salt Spring, and touch on most of Galiano's west shore.  Under the joint provincial and federal government authorized expansion, six new deep water tenures for geoduck aquaculture have been issued, in addition to the existing approximate 40 intertidal tenures which have geoducks on their licenses.  75 square miles of geoduck beds have been identified.  What future shellfish industry activities and installations will look like in other parts of the Islands Trust Area hasn't been revealed.

The Denman case exposes the Islands Trust's weakness in enforcing its environmental mandate when senior  overnments exploit resource-based business opportunities that occur on the islands.  We've seen it forestry, and now shellfish aquaculture.  Licenses and tenures are granted contrary to existing zoning and wise environmental practice. The industry successfully thumbs its nose at the Trust.  This behaviour gives Trust supporters across the Gulf Islands more reason to fear Denman-type abuse could happen unchecked in their marine environments.  The Trust  cknowledges the Denman-Baynes Sound shellfish industry is unsustainable and, in part, illegal.  The Trust Policy Statement's vow to protect its marine areas has been muted by happenings in Baynes Sound, which it describes as the second most important waterfowl habitat in BC, after the Fraser River estuary, and "an important rearing habitat for salmonids and other fish species ... a highly productive herring spawning area."

A central objective of good planning, the separation of incompatible uses, has been violated on Denman, and yet the Association of Denman Island Marine Stewards isn't opposed to the shellfish industry.  It insists, only, that the industry be kept to a scale and managed in ways that are sensitive and responsible to its surroundings.  Denman grievances against shellfish predator netting, driving vehicles through shorelines, creating berms and altering water courses that harm beach ecology are anchored in common sense.  And yet Trust planners report that even if proper prohibitions were adopted by the local trust committee, “bylaw enforcement of non-compliance would be difficult if not impossible given the predicted pressures from [the province] and Department of Fisheries & Oceans … and the high chance of creating conflict (with them).”  The local trust committee retained a consultant who mostly confirmed the planners' position and also recommended hiring a lawyer "to address driving on the beach and beach modification in a manner that does not interfere with the constitutional jurisdiction of Canada in managing the shellfish aquaculture licenses."

Hardly a confidence-builder for other Gulf Islanders who have taken for granted that their beaches are off limits to such intrusions.  

Photos from Denman Island and Bayne sound

dead fish

Denman Island residents have been raising the alarm over herring caught and killed 

in plastic netting designed to keep clam beds safe from birds and other predators.

Beach cleanup

Two Denman residents stand before a trailer of garbage and equipment from the

shellfish industry that was collected during the Great Canadian Beach Clean up.

In Puget sound

In Washington's Puget Sound there are 237 commercial farmed geoduck sites (as of 2011) primarily in intertidal zones. The mission of the Protect Our Shoreline group is to "protect the habitat of Puget Sound tidelands in relation to expansion of new intensive shellfish aquaculture methods and practices.   Shellfish aquaculture is converting beaches to agricultural use without shoreline permits, public comment or environmental review.”  The group urges government to place a moratorium on commercial farming of geoducks on leased private tidelands until an independentenvironmental impact study on the intertidal/nearshore zone can be done.

Photo: Geoduck tubes on the shoreline of Washington’s Case Inlet

For information call 250 629 3001

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