Baynes Sound is not a large place in terms of the Pacific Ocean; but it is a place of great natural riches. It will be subject to all the problems of climate change we associate with acidification, global warming, rising ocean levels to name just three growing challenges.
I felt personal shame and embarrassment that the 2014 federal government budget made no serious mention of the growing threat to the planet of climate change. As I write this column, southern England is being flooded, Australia is burning up, California in a drought, the southeast USA is experiencing history making winter storms.
There is much solid evidence that these historic weather-related events are caused by increased climate change brought on by increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. I am no weather scientist, but I can read the ongoing writings of leading scientists throughout the world and it is evident to my limited view of the evidence that the global climate is changing.
I also find it disturbing that our provincial government in Victoria is pushing liquefied natural gas (LNG) and mining as the panacea of solving all our money problems, with minimal concern for the environment. There is some logic in promoting LNG because in many ways it is the least of several evils in producing energy with reduced build-ups in carbon dioxide.
The same cannot be said for mining with the evils of acid mine drainage in our waterways. All of which brings me back to the point of this column – Baynes Sound is an awesome treasure of naturally occurring sources of sustainable seafood at the local level and also a life renewing birthing ground for the broad north Pacific Ocean.
The rivers and streams that flow into the sound from the Beaufort Range are rich sources of spawning grounds for the many species of salmon that begin their life journeys in the gravel beds before migration into Baynes Sound to prepare for their open ocean journeys. The micro organisms of Baynes Sound nurture the small salmon as they enter the open abyss of the north Pacific.
Shellfish – as in oysters, clams, prawns and scallops – are important sources of foods and recreation throughout the sound. Valley residents carefully watch the approaching low daylight tides so they can gather fresh oysters and clams. Aquaculture – as in raising oysters and clams – is an international business for the sea farmers of this small body of water. The Oceanside route of the Island Highway is dotted with commercial processing operations of farmers growing oysters and clams.
This industry in located in Baynes Sound because the waters are clean and low in pollution from land-based operations. Recurring nightmares are inflicted on local people when the provincial government gives positive support to the resurgence of coal mining on the slopes of the Beaufort Range that drain into Baynes Sound.
We should stop the process of mining carbon oxide that was sequestered from the atmosphere millions of year ago and now appears as coal. In the burning of the coal we increase carbon dioxide in the atmosphere plus the run-off from the mines become sources of acid as in acid mine drainage.
I firmly believe we should put a mineral reserve on all drainages that enter Baynes Sound because of its incredible ability to produce food and cycles of life for shellfish, salmon and herring; which is an incomplete list of its food sources as in the new culture of sea cucumbers.
The north Pacific herring is an annual source of life renewal for itself and a host of other forms of life that depend on this small fish for the basics of health and growth. This list includes many species of fish, a variety of birds, and an impressive list of mammals. Added to this roster are the humans who harvest the fish in thousands of tons that transfer to hundreds of millions of dollars.
Herring are fickle at times, but over the last 33 years they have contributed to the wealth of Baynes Sound by spawning within its small area on 20 occasions, so that the seine fleet could harvest its annual quota of roe herring. In the 2013/14 season, 8,000 tons were caught for human food in the Strait of Georgia.
In the coming challenges of climate change, Baynes Sound is a natural treasure that must be protected.
Ralph Shaw is a master fly fisherman who was awarded the Order of Canada in 1984 for his conservation efforts. In 20 years of writing a column in the Comox Valley Record it has won several awards.