Sea cucumbers dropped from two Baynes Sound aquaculture applications

Two large and controversial aquaculture applications for sea cucumbers in the Baynes Sound area have been resubmitted.

Two large and controversial aquaculture applications for sea cucumbers in the Baynes Sound area have been resubmitted — minus the sea cucumbers.

“The previous application for sea cucumbers was not accepted by DFO (federal Department of Oceans and Fisheries) and Ministry of Lands (Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, FLNRO),” says applicant Dan Bowen.

Nearly a year ago, Bowen co-applied for a sea cucumber licence and land tenure for an area 155 hectares in size, stretching from south Royston to north Union Bay. The area is sub-tidal, meaning it’s underwater at all times.

Joey Tarnowski is a co-applicant for a 107-hectare application for tenure — which was also sub-tidal and stretched from just south of Union Point in Union Bay to about 300 metres north of the Buckley Bay ferry terminal. His application to grow sea cucumbers was also stopped in its tracks.

When the applications surfaced last year, there was some public outcry, such as from the Friends of Baynes Sound, and some public support, such as Project Watershed’s support for the proposed research phase of the application.

Both applications were resubmitted with the same size and location for tenure, but with aquaculture licencing for scallops, cockles and oysters instead of sea cucumbers.

“We were a bit ahead of our time with regard to this concept (of growing sea cucumbers),” explains Bowen of his application. “The DFO was not up to speed with that type of application and so they had to go back to their policy and look at it.”

FLNRO’s Kathy Evans confirms DFO is developing a revised management approach for sea cucumbers and expects the work to completed in 2014.

“The work will consider a number of factors, including science advice, DFO and Government of Canada policies and priorities, as well as socio-economic and environmental considerations,” says Evans. “The approach will also be informed by discussions with First Nations, industry, stakeholders and provincial agencies responsible for aquaculture.

“Until this work is complete, DFO will not be considering new or amendment licence applications for sea cucumber aquaculture under the Pacific Aquaculture Regulations.”

According to a media spokesperson for DFO, a project review team with representatives from Transport Canada, the Province and DFO staff will be reviewing the new applications from Bowen and Tarnowski shortly to decide if they will be formally accepted for detailed review. Until the applications are reviewed by the review team, DFO can’t comment because it doesn’t yet have information on the applications.

Tarnowski says his application features only bottom-growing species.

“There’ll be no raft, no buoys, no nothing — you won’t be able to see anything,” he says. “There’ll be no interruption to people that are using the water above it.”

Both applicants say they hope to revisit the idea of growing sea cucumbers once DFO develops a management approach for them, and Bowen in particular still hopes to conduct research on them.

“We’re still hopeful that some progress will be made in the next year or two,” says Bowen, adding environmental degradation in Baynes Sound could be improved by growing sea cucumbers.

“We have the ability to restore the bottom of the ocean to what it was hopefully, years ago, and mitigate some of the environmental damage done.

“This is certainly is a chance to make things better, you know, that was part of our philosophy and we believed that from Day One.”