Deep Water Recovery Ltd. owns a ship-breaking company in Union Bay. File photo

LETTER – Shipbreaking business brings added stress to Baynes Sound ecosystem

Dear editor,

I have lived on the waterfront of Baynes Sound for over 20 years. During this time the decline of salmon, herring, birds, vegetation, and that of marine and wildlife, in general, has become obvious. The death of shellfish all along the shores during our unprecedented heatwaves and the recent heat dome was visible – along with the impact on the food chain. The Baynes Sound ecosystem cannot take any further stresses including those being added by the hazardous shipbreaking taking place in Union Bay by Deep Water Recovery.

This area is home to a critical variety of marine life, including animals designated by the Species at Risk Act as threatened and endangered, like the Great Blue Heron and Killer Whale. Baynes Sound is the second most important wetland for birds in all B.C. after the Fraser River Delta.

As one of the most significant areas for a wide variety of water, shore and migratory birds in B.C., Baynes Sound has been designated by international standards to be an Ecologically and Biologically Significant Area (EBSA) and Important Bird Area (IBA) that provides vital habitat during both the breeding and non-breeding seasons.

Next to salmon, few B.C. species are as ecologically, culturally, historically, or economically important as herring. Baynes Sound is a documented herring spawn habitat hosting the largest herring spawn and nursery (now in decline) on the Pacific Coast. It comprises an essential and irreplaceable cornerstone of the Pacific marine food chain that supports a spectacular variety of marine mammals that includes dolphins, seals, Stellar sea lions, river otters and killer whales.

Baynes Sound is also home to the all-important salmonid spawning and nursery grounds, with 15 salmonid streams draining into it within this very small geographical area.

Aquaculture, an important industry in B.C. and Baynes Sound, supports some of the most productive oyster, clam and mussel cultivating areas on the Pacific Coast. It’s from this area, the heart of Canada’s shellfish capital, where most of the commercial harvesting takes place.

“This is a shellfish rich and sensitive ecological area, accounting for 50 per cent of B.C.’s shellfish tenures, including important shellfish stocks for K’omoks Frist Nation’s (KFN) economic, food, social and ceremonial uses.” *

Intangible quality of life factors – lifestyle, cultural, heritage and recreational values – must also be given weight in the viability process of Deep Water Recovery’s activities.

An environmental disaster waiting to happen: KFN strongly opposed to Deep Water Recovery’s ship-breaking activities in Union Bay, which is within KFN’s traditional, unceded territory.” *

Many investments are being made that include Pacific salmon restoration funding by the province of B.C., KFN and local and federal governments to restore key habitat on the Courtenay River and K’omoks Estuary. This restoration project of Kus-kus-sum is widely supported with public, private and business donations for the ‘unpaving of paradise.’

It is financial mismanagement of these investments to simultaneously undermine this ecological, cultural and community work with massive new industrial activity that degrades and jeopardizes the entire ecosystem of the Baynes Sound.

Economic development decisions must balance priorities and contribute to the long-term sustainability, health, and well-being of our community and environment for generations to come.

As climate change and development ramps up and continues to impact Baynes Sound “why would we jeopardize this area further?” says Hegys (KFN Chief Councillor) Nicole Rempel*

In the interest of ensuring the longevity of all life in, on and around Baynes Sound we have a duty of care to raise our voices to protect this invaluable marine ecosystem from deliberate harm. In order to do so, it’s imperative that all levels of government – KFN, municipal, provincial and federal work together and stop this hazardous shipbreaking operation and cease the operation of Deep Water Recovery in Union Bay.

*(KFN press release Dec. 16, 2021).

Sue Smith,

Union Bay

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