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Consultation sought on seaweed harvest PDF Print E-mail
Earth News
Posted by Joan Russow
Sunday, 27 October 2013 07:03
 
Pamela Suzanne Smyth / Special To The Star 
October 24, 2013 12:00 AM

http://www.oceansidestar.com/news/consultation-sought-on-seaweed-harvest-1.670215

SeaweedFrom left: RDN Director Bill Veenhof and MLA Scott Fraser listen to Island Scallops CEO Rob Saunders as he explains several types of seaweed found on the beach in Deep Bay.  Photograph by: PAMELA SUZANNE SMYTH PHOTO - See more at: 

http://www.oceansidestar.com/news/consultation-sought-on-seaweed-harvest-1.670215#sthash.YfcrabSh.dpuf

 
Peaceful protesters, curious residents, seaweed harvesters and politicians met at a rally on the beach in Deep Bay on Wednesday last week.
A community group is calling for a halt to seaweed harvesting until the BC Ministry of Agriculture can show there will be no damage to beach habitat, marine life and local infrastructure.
Concerns range from shoreline and property destabilization to impacts on beach habitat and the marine environment. The harvesting of beach-cast mazzaella japonica in Deep Bay and Bowser began last year, when track vehicles suddenly arrived on local beaches as part of a Ministry of Agriculture pilot project.
This year, the Ministry-issued licenses have dropped from five to two, the harvesting zone from 21 to five kilometres and the tonnage quotas from 1,000 to 300 per license.
Stormy Shores Sea Products and Pacific Marine Plants now hold 'conditional' licenses valid to Feb 15, 2014.
"There's been no public consultation," said Bill Veenhof, the area's representative to the Regional District of Nanaimo. "We need to know the science, the social impacts and have an enforcement regime in place."
From her home, Valerie Williams-Parkin has a front-row seat to the harvesting.
"In the past, no one has ever been allowed to run a motor vehicle on the beach," she said. "They moved the big boulders and stumps. That's causing more erosion. At high tide, the water is now washing up to the road. It never did that before.
"They should never have been given licences until this is studied."
"It's a new fishery and there's no science that's come from the government," said Scott Fraser, MLA for Alberni-Pacific Rim.
Fraser said he was told by Agriculture Minister Pat Pimm "that public input will be an impediment to progress. It's easy to create jobs but what does that take away? Providing information is a very simple thing for government to do. Pitting businesses against the people is not good for business, not good for jobs, and not good for the public."
The RDN asked to meet with the Minister "before the licences were issued," said Veenhof. However, by the time they met, he said, "the ship had already sailed. The licenses were issued the week before."
In a subsequent meeting, "we received a briefing," said Veenhof, "but I don't call that a consultation."
Marine experts also approached the Ministry before the 2013 licenses were issued. Dr. Ian Birtwell, a retired marine habit scientist, said, "Living, dead, and decomposing
seaweed is valuable habitat and food for countless marine organisms. The eggs are in the gravel which beachcast algae covers. Seaweed is at the base of the food chain and fertilizes the shoreline. It's no different from a farmer fertilizing crops and many life forms depend on it."
Qualicum First Nations council member Michael Recalma said the Ministry "chatted with us but have not been forthcoming in what we've asked for."
"No one seems angry with the harvesters," Veenhof said. "They're just doing a job. If you get community buy-in, it's a completely different issue but it hasn't been. It is what it is. The Ministry may have no legal requirement, but they do have a moral obligation to consult with the people they represent. They've been running a test program for several years, so let's see the science."
Minister Pimm said he was touring the province and couldn't meet with local officials in time.
"Unfortunately, I didn't meet with them (the RDN) before the licenses were issued," he said, "but certainly I met with them shortly after to explain the situation of how we're going to be monitoring."
Concerns will be dealt with, he said. "I'm more than happy to do that but I also want to keep the process going and have the pilot.
"This is the fourth time that licenses have been issued in B.C. for this product. We were issuing in 2007, after discussions with DFO (Department of Fisheries and Oceans) and the Ministry of Environment and again in 2011 and 2012. Each time we've been monitoring and trying to update our information and working all of that into the equation. "We have over 300 commodities. If we tried to do consultations on every license, we would be bogged down so badly that staff just could not get through the process."
Licences to harvest aquatic plants do not grant interest in the land or convey occupancy, he said, "so referrals to local governments are not required, and that's why there wasn't a formal process put in place to consult with all the local governments in the area."
The ministry wants to grow B.C.'s agricultureaquaculture industry from $11 billion to $14 billion by 2017, "adding jobs to the economy" and "protecting the environment at the same time," he said. "We think there will be a balance.
"We want to make sure we get this right because there's a good possibility that this could be a bit of an industry in the future," Pimm said. "And if we can do it responsibly, we want to have a hard, solid look at that."
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Oceanside Star
Last Updated on Saturday, 02 November 2013 12:05
 

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