Denman Islanders still frustrated by shellfish aquaculture debris on beaches

A group of Denman Island residents stopped by Driftwood Mall on Wednesday with truckloads of debris en route to the dump.

DENMAN ISLAND RESIDENTS Liz Johnston

DENMAN ISLAND RESIDENTS Liz Johnston

A group of Denman Island residents stopped by Driftwood Mall on Wednesday with truckloads of debris en route to the dump.

The garbage included floats, racks, baskets, trays, netting, Styrofoam blocks, wire and pouches. One trailer was loaded full of metal caging from an abandoned tenure.

The residents were affiliated with the Denman Island Marine Stewardship Committee, which conducted its seventh annual beach cleanup on the weekend. Each year, volunteers collect two to four tons of debris, which the group says is mostly generated by the shellfish aquaculture industry.

Besides being an eyesore, the garbage creates safety hazards for beach users, they say.

“It’s very, very unacceptable as far as we’re concerned, and it’s not changing, it’s not reducing,” said Shelley McKeachie of the DIMSC executive. “We’re trying to shine a light on this today.

“We’ve just met with DFO (Fisheries and Oceans Canada), who recently took over the regulation of this industry. They’re making plans for how to deal with this and other issues around the shellfish industry.”

Each year, the committee invites the industry, through the Comox-based BC Shellfish Growers Association, to claim the detritus.

The association, noting shellfish farmers have attended the beach cleanup in past years, said it was not invited to this year’s event. It could not send a representative to Wednesday’s demonstration because it received an invitation on Monday, which was not enough notice for farmers or the two-person BCSGA operation.

“Our cleanup efforts, we spend a lot of money and time and effort to work on that issue,” BCSGA communications manager Matthew Wright said. “It’s been an ongoing issue for quite a few years. We have two bins down in the Baynes Sound area, and we also hire a fellow who goes out four to six times a year to scour the area.”

The committee, however, considers this a Band-Aid solution because the amount of garbage on Denman beaches and in Baynes Sound is not decreasing.

While acknowledging the BCSGA offered to pay this year’s tipping fees, the committee feels the association needs to stop garbage from arriving on beaches in the first place.

“It’s our feeling they need to put their energy into securing their equipment,” McKeachie said. “If it should escape, which some of it is bound to, they then need to be responsible for cleaning up after themselves. It should not be volunteers.”

The committee feels the industry needs to insist on grower practices to prevent littering with equipment and obsolete materials, and to regularly walk their tenures and collect debris. It also suggests Fisheries and Oceans Canada enforce a no-littering policy.

Wright said the BCSGA tries to educate farmers. Through research and development, it also tries to come up with new ways to secure equipment.

“But we’re fighting against lots of adverse weather conditions, especially in the spring and the fall, that dislodges a lot of the equipment,” he said. “The bottom line is, most of the people in that area are small family farms. For them to lose a tray, that costs them money. They’re already struggling as it is.”

The BCSGA applauds the efforts of the committee and volunteers.

“Our association is involved with multiple beach cleanups throughout the province on a yearly basis,” Wright said. “We try and keep on top of it.”

reporter@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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