This Comox Valley land grab underwater

Dear editor,

The last chance to comment on a huge underwater land grab for commercial purposes was Oct. 25.

Dear editor,

Well, you missed it. The last chance to comment on a huge underwater land grab for commercial purposes was Oct. 25.

I just heard about it myself about a week ago from an e-mail from Friends of Baynes Sound Society (friendsofbaynessound@hotmail.com).

The comment period was from Sept. 25 to Oct. 25, barely enough time to do any research – if you even knew about these proposals.

Salish Sea Farms Ltd. has applied to Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO) and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) for tenures (essentially leases) on six underwater tracts totalling 521.4 hectares (1288.5 acres) in the heart of  Comox Valley recreational areas such as Kye Bay, Little River, the Comox Bluffs, Henry Bay, and Denman Island (2).

The shellfish species aren’t specified in these applications though sea cucumbers seems to be the main species. Acres of predator nets, and concrete barrels to anchor them, would be used.

But the real goal seems to be geoducks (a large clam). Geoduck sites are labelled in a drawing. Geoducks are where the money is; they sell for $50 to $70 a piece in the Asian market.

DFO has not yet developed a policy regarding geoduck cultivation — partly because they ingest and retain pollutants — but it seems clear that these application are a pre-emptive strike so that when, and if, DFO develops a process, these applicants will have already sewed up tracts of the seafloor in the best local areas larger than Stanley Park.

Keep in mind that the average size of 440 current aquaculture tenures in B.C. is 4.39 hectares and only five are larger than 30 hectares.

These applications at 98.7, 105.3, 118.7, 7.29, 55,75, and 135.7 hectares (total 521.445) are for an area almost as large as the total tenure area for Baynes Sound of 613.06 hectares (info from Vancouver Island University).

There are also another two aquaculture tenure applications waiting in the wings, one for 107 and one for 155 hectares — a total of 262 hectares. The proponents of these tenures also seem poised for eventual geoduck farming when a process is finally announced.

These eight applications represent a potential land grab of what is a public resource — and should be designated as a recreational reserve — which would more than double the area of the tenures in Baynes Sound and which now produces 52 per cent of B.C.’s shellfish.

A recent survey by VIU found that 50 per cent of respondents stated they wanted no further expansion of aquaculture in the Sound.

It may be too late to comment on these specific applications but you can write the minister responsible for DFO (Gail Shea) at min@dfo.mto.gc.ca and suggest both that the comment period should be longer and that you don’t support the  expansion of aquaculture tenures in Baynes Sound.

Ed Varney,

Comox Valley

 

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