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Geoduck draft framework to be unveiled this week

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans will make its draft integrated geoduck (pronounced gooey-duck) management framework public this week.

According to a DFO spokesperson, the draft management framework will be posted on the DFO website this week and DFO will accept written comments about it for 45 days after it's posted.

BC Shellfish Growers' Association executive director Roberta Stevenson says this announcement is big news for B.C.'s aquaculture industry, as it should mean the lucrative shellfish can be farmed in the future.

"From an economic viewpoint we feel encouraged by this news," says Comox-based Stevenson. "It's been 20 years in the making and meanwhile, farmed geoduck has been actively going to the north in Alaska and to the south in Puget Sound for 10 years now.

"Farming geoduck is not a new thing and we know it has great economic potential, not only that, we know from our neighbours to the north and south that it's sustainable."

Eric Gant, president of Manatee Holdings Ltd., has been fishing wild geoduck since the late 1970s. He says he's been pushing DFO to develop policy to allow geoduck farming since the 1980s, citing a decline in wild geoduck stocks and a need for sustainability of the industry.

"The fisheries are not operating on a realistic and sustainable management plan," Gant says. "I'm committed to moving towards a reseeding program similar to a tree farm model where you plant as much as you take, which you fit into a natural ecology."

Gant is cautiously optimistic about the announcement of a draft integrated geoduck management framework from DFO.

"I think it's great news," he says. "Let's see what they actually put forward, whether it's a management strategy that will allow for the proper management of the industry or whether it's management strategy that's going to doom it to fail. We just have to see what it is and then make the judgment call after that."

According to www.manateeholdings.com, geoducks are worth more than $20 per pound to harvesters, and clams can be worth several hundred dollars each in the Far East.

Meanwhile, DFO is also working on a management approach for sea cucumber aquaculture.

"Our aim is to complete this work in 2014," says the spokesperson in an e-mail. "However, the specific timing will depend largely on the results of our science review, as well as discussions with First Nations and stakeholders."

writer@comoxvalleyrecord.com

 

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