Re: DFO defends ocean ghost gear grants, Aug. 22 Record
Alexandra Coutts, spokesperson for the Ministry of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), responded to our Aug. 12 opinion piece (DFO should enforce regulations, not pay for cleanup), which criticized DFO for not enforcing regulations, and for neglecting to ensure that shellfish growers clean up their own debris.
In response to our stating that DFO has understaffed and under-budgeted enforcement for the last decade, she explained that 10 fisheries officers in this sector work on the coast, and that a high priority is placed on “traceability of shellfish product in BC due to the human health risks,” implying that most staff are assigned to that specific focus. We don’t question deploying staff to deal with such critical needs.
However, tonnes of industry gear and equipment continually wash up on beaches as plastic debris, an internationally recognized threat to human and ecosystem health, but do not receive attention from these same fisheries officers, nor does it cause DFO or the growers to develop a cleanup plan.
Ms. Coutts claims that DFO “has worked with BCSGA” (the shellfish growers association) “and community groups like ADIMS on beach cleanup events around Baynes Sound and on Denman Island.” She seemingly expects credit for this when DFO should have been organizing and enforcing a long-term plan for keeping debris out of our waters.
This is a textbook example of how an industry loses its social licence: for 15 years its neighbours (us) clean up after them, without any positive outcome because debris continually rolls in.
The regulator ignores and trivializes the problem, until it gets too hot for their political masters, then it rushes in with money and introduces a new revenue stream for the growers – paying them to clean up their own mess. Does anyone believe this will encourage the growers to reduce plastic debris in Baynes Sound? Time is up for this dysfunctional approach.
Chair, Association for Denman Island Marine Stewards (ADIMS)
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