Salish Sea Farms Ltd. hopes to start work this spring in preparation for geoduck cultivation, according to Richard Hardy.
Salish Sea Farms submitted applications for tenure in September to the provincial Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, totalling an area over 500 hectares in Comox Valley waters. Hardy, representing K’ómoks First Nation’s Salish Sea Farms, says the applications for sub-tidal aquaculture licensing to the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans focus on geoduck farming.
Although the DFO is updating its management approaches for geoduck aquaculture, Hardy hopes the applications move along fast enough for work to start next year.
“I’m anticipating us being able to get out and work on our sites sometime in the spring — that’s the goal of the K’ómoks First Nation,” Hardy says. “We feel that we have the support of the Province of British Columbia with regards to moving forward on our initiative; we’re just trying to gain the support from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.”
The application areas include 55.75 hectares south of Seal Bay; 93.7 hectares northeast of Kye Bay; 105.3 hectares at Willemar Bluff; 7.3 hectares in Henry Bay; 135.7 hectares northeast of Denman Island; and 118.7 hectares on the east side of Denman Island. All application areas are sub-tidal, and Hardy notes the cultivation would occur 30 feet below the surface of the water.
According to plans in the applications, PVC piping and predator netting would be used to protect the geoducks for the first two years of their growth cycle.
Hardy notes geoducks take eight to 10 years to grow to size and, if the project moves ahead, the investment Salish Sea Farms will make before seeing profits is huge.
“We’re looking at setting up our crop rotations where you’re doing 50 hectares annually that you’re harvesting and reseeding,” he says, noting Salish Sea Farms expects to spend about $10 million annually for the first eight to 10 years. “So, there’s a substantial investment by Salish Sea Farms for $100 million before we start generating any significant revenues.”
Once up and running, he expects Salish Sea Farms’ geoduck cultivation to generate $50 million annually, pointing out indirect revenue generated for the local economy should be double that — $100 million per year.
K’ómoks First Nation started growing oysters and clams via Pentlatch Seafoods Ltd. about 10 years ago, and took over a seafood processing plant this year, via Salish Seafoods. Hardy says cultivating geoducks is the next step in KFN’s plans.
“It’s the K’ómoks First Nation again managing the marine resources within their traditional territory, and most notably, right in their core territory,” he says.
While Hardy says the current applications for aquaculture licences to the DFO focus on geoducks, the applications for tenure refer to sea cucumber cultivation, too, and Hardy said sea cucumbers are a possibility for Salish Sea Farms in the future.
“Anybody that’s involved in the aquaculture industry, I think everybody looks at what opportunities are available to them with regards to species,” he says. “I think once DFO has developed policies revolving around sea cucumbers then yes, we would probably look at including sea cucumbers as a species on our tenures.”
DFO is updating its policy around sea cucumber aquaculture, according to a DFO spokesperson, and will not approve any sea cucumber aquaculture licence applications, until this work is complete. The policy work is expected to be complete in 2014.
MFLNRO will accept comments from the public about the applications until Nov. 28. Written comments can be sent to the Manager of Aquaculture at MFLNRO, (2500 Cliffe Ave. Courtenay, B.C. V9N 5M6), or via e-mail to AuthorizingAgency.Nanaimo@gov.bc.ca.
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Some Friends of Baynes Sound Society concerns:
• Worry that there is too much aquaculture in Baynes Sound — want moratorium on expansion until more research completed, such as research on water quality, acidity levels and temperature;
• Tenure sizes are large compared to average tenure size on B.C. coast;
• Potential impact to herring spawn area and conflict with commercial herring fishery;
• Potential increase in plastic debris leeching into marine environment and increased industry debris.
For more about FOBSS concerns, visit http://friendsofbaynessound.wordpress.com.