A proposal to add 30 oyster rafts in Baynes Sound met with mixed reaction among 18 attendees at a recent public hearing at the regional district board room.
Oyster farmer Shao Ping Kang said he intends to create jobs, benefit the local economy, and mitigate negative impacts on marine life and habitat.
He was supported by Courtenay resident Jenny Xie and by Roberta Stevenson, executive director of the BC Shellfish Growers Association. The latter said shellfish farming is a solid means of employment that provides an opportunity for immigrants.
Union Bay resident Janet Thomas — concerned about increased amounts of plastic and garbage — cited studies about levels of micro plastics in Baynes Sound. Noting styrofoam debris from the breakup of oyster rafts, she advocates a limit to future “biofouling” in the waters.
Stevenson — confident Kang intends to address issues of plastic debris — said it is in the best interest of farmers to avoid adding plastics to the water or to have trays go astray. She notes the shellfish industry is highly regulated and that farmers must comply or risk losing their licence.
Kang has requested a rezoning from aquaculture AQ-1 to AQ-2 to use structures less than one metre above water.
Thomas called for a moratorium on further expansion until a study is conducted to determine the state of the water and carrying capacity for aquaculture in Baynes Sound. She noted the area suffered a loss of scallops in February due to ocean acidification.
She presented 50-plus submissions from residents opposed to the rezoning proposal.
“Ninety per cent of Baynes Sound is already leased, and now they want to put 30 more oyster rafts down here,” fellow Union Bay resident Carolyn Touhey said. “It’s not that we were against the rafts per se, it’s that we don’t feel due diligence has been done on an environmental standpoint.”
Despite opposition from residents, Touhey suggested the application has been “ramrodded through.” She questioned if there are other more industrialized locations such as Fanny Bay that could work for the applicant.
“It just seems like there’s not a compromise,” she said.
Area A director Bruce Jolliffe, who chaired the June 16 meeting, said the application is following the standard rezoning process.
The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations — not the CVRD — regulates aquaculture and will decide whether or not to grant a tenure. The area is already zoned AQ-1, which means the ministry could grant a tenure without a rezoning, Jolliffe added.
The application is up for final reading. Jolliffe, Area B director Jim Gillis and Area C director Edwin Grieve will vote on the rezoning.