Letters to the Editor.

LETTER – According to B.C. Government, harvesting seaweed by hand is perfectly legitimate

Dear Editor:

Re: Edina Johnston’s letter re the removal of dead beach seaweed (Gardeners may unknowingly be damaging the marine environment by removing seaweed, Dec. 9 Record)

I read the above-noted letter and comment as follows:

This letter is not being written by an angry old man.

I am an ardent environmentalist and, for example, my wife and I recently stopped using our $10,000 granite-faced, wood-burning, Tempcast concrete stove to heat our house because of wood burning’s contribution to the Comox Valley’s 2.5P air pollution problem. I am a retired professional engineer and I have no scientific or professional experience in the matter in question and if I had, being retired, I couldn’t express any opinions anyway.

In expressing her opinion, Ms. Johnston seems to be depending on a document prepared by a group of researchers from UVic.

I’m afraid I don’t have the time or inclination to do an exhaustive review of the document but I did a cursory review of it.

From my cursory review of the document, it seems that it is primarily concerned with the adverse effects of person-made structures such as concrete retaining walls and other protective structures built adjacent to the beach, on the nature of the sand and gravel on the adjacent beach. The natural sand and small gravel particles there before the structures were installed apparently are crucial to the spawning and development of forage fish like the Pacific sand lance and surf smelts which are important forage fish in the food chain, with the orcas being at the top of it. However, I could find nowhere in it that referred to hand removal of dead seaweed from the beach in the document being prohibited, but I freely admit that I did not read all its the footnotes and other references.

(If Ms. Johnston can find anything in the document relating to the hand removal of dead seaweed from the beach being detrimental to the life cycle of the forage fish she talks about, I would be happy to review her findings and comment accordingly.)

To try to get to the bottom of this issue, I called the Nanaimo biological station for information and the person there put me onto a document (bit.ly/2KwKA7a) produced by the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources. That document contained the following:

“Individuals harvesting for their own personal use, and collecting amounts of 100 kg or less, do not require a licence; however, all aquatic plant harvest should minimize impacts to aquatic plants and to the environment. All harvesting must be done by hand (no raking) and if harvesting occurs on the foreshore, the substrate should not be disturbed or exposed….”

So, if done without disturbing the substrate (the sand and gravel under the dead seaweed), it is perfectly legitimate for people to harvest up to 100kg of dead seaweed from the beach for their own use and no licence is required. It must be done by hand and to harvest the seaweed, the sand layer under it must not be disturbed.

Granville Airton,