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Baynes Sound shellfish application smaller due to 'political resistance'

The application for a 155-hectare shellfish tenure in Baynes Sound has been scaled back to nearly half that size due to "political resistance."

Now 81 hectares in size, the application for tenure stretches from north of Union Point in Union Bay to the Amber Way area, rather than all the way north to Gartley Road as originally submitted.

"Primarily political resistance," co-applicant Eric Gant quickly replies when asked why he and co-applicants Bon Thorburn and Dan Bowen changed the size. "We're always dealing with people trying to interfere with what we're trying to accomplish, and they're doing it for reasons that are not valid because they don't bother to come to us to find out what we're truly trying to do."

The sub-tidal aquaculture application has been controversial since it was filed nearly two years ago.

Species now listed on the 81-hectare application include oysters, scallops, cockles and horse clams. On-bottom predator netting and containment structures are included in the plans.

Geoducks (pronounced gooey-duck) and sea cucumbers were listed on the application when it was first filed. Geoducks were removed shortly after filing the application, but sea cucumbers were on the application until about a year ago.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans will not approve any licences for geoduck or sea cucumber aquaculture until it has management policies in place for these species. Although the applicants tried to get approval to grow sea cucumbers for research, that species was denied on the application more than a year ago.

A group of area residents have voiced a wide variety of concerns since the beginning, some esthetic and many environmental.

Local group the Friends of Baynes Sound Society wants a moratorium on aquaculture expansion in Baynes Sound until more research is completed, such as research on water quality, acidity levels and temperature. For more information, visit http://friendsofbaynessound.wordpress.com.

One concern voiced repeatedly throughout this tenure application process was the large size proposed.

Gant, who owns the Gartley Point Hatchery for shellfish, says the idea was always for a low-density aquaculture model rather than a high-density one, hence the desire for a large area to operate on.

"This is just one model that we're trying to show people how you can raise a multitude of species and fit into the surrounding ecology without trying to impose an intensive approach, just keep it the same density that Mother Nature normally likes,"  says Gant, noting the smaller tenure size, if approved, would be for a smaller operation that is still low-density.

"We don't want to impose on Mother Nature what we think she should be doing on our behalf; we want to find out what she's happy with and fit into that ecology. She is massively more powerful than us and we need to respect that a lot more than we do, not try to jam a whole bunch of animals into a small space."

His blog, (genuinegeoduck.com), outlines an example of how sea urchins, geoducks and sea cucumbers could be grown together to create a healthy ecology, noting sea cucumbers, for example, eat rotting organic material, which helps keep the ocean's ecology healthy.

DFO is working on aquaculture management policies for geoduck and sea cucumber, and aims to have these policies in place this year.

Gant says if the 81-hectare tenure is approved, and if DFO allows geoduck and sea cucumber farming in the future, he will consider applying for a licence for these species on that site at a later date, but he adds the site is not optimal for geoduck growing.

Public feedback will be accepted on the current application until March 15. To comment, visit www.arfd.gov.bc.ca/ApplicationPosting/viewpost.jsp?PostID=29705.

Meanwhile, another application for a large aquaculture tenure, which was filed around the same time as Gant's application, is still listed as 'under review' on the Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations website. This sub-tidal application is 107 hectares and located between Union Bay and Buckley Bay.

writer@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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