Salmon Enhancement and Habitat Advisory Board (SEHAB) Roundtable
Date: February 21, 2009
Area: Central Vancouver Island
Representative: Jack Minard
Challenges/Issues and Opportunities/Successes of the Volunteer Aquatic Stewards
Comments from fellow stewards such as “DFO does not know what habitat is anymore” is creating a huge gap in the ability for anyone to protect anything. Add to this reducing budgets and reductions in staffing and most volunteers working with the Department feel abandoned and certainly ill-supported.
Through all of this however, volunteerism is still strong. Numbers of volunteers have dropped off and some projects have had to be left undone but volunteer-based enhancement work continues to significantly support a wild fishery on our coast.
The energy to create and implement restoration projects have become much reduced. Both a reduction in available funding opportunities as more groups and agencies vie for the same pots of money and a general malaise growing due to the Departments alterations to the Fisheries Act are largely responsible. The overall effect is to undermine and throw into question the importance of this work and whether it would be protected after completion. This undermines volunteer energy significantly.
Compliance Coal’s drive to complete the environmental assessment coupled with the Provincial Government’s obvious direction of supporting new mines in BC has many residents of the Comox and Alberni Valleys and everyone in between extremely concerned for the long-term health of local watersheds, air quality and of most importance to most, the shellfish aquaculture industry in Baynes Sound that is sustainably employing over 700 people. “Why would we put this in jeopardy?” locals ask. “Why would we mine more CO² producing fossil fuels when we should be concentrating on and perhaps turning existing subsidies from Government to alternative fuels and energy R&D?”
The loss of Adam Silverstein’ position has many volunteers wondering who’s next? Adam was reaching SEP volunteers in ways no one before has. Adam was last seen working with Quinsam Hatchery staff and community volunteers taking pink eggs. An Area Manager, in there getting his hands all gooey and interrelating with volunteers; we hope we see Adam assigned to a position where he can again share his great attitude and wonderful way with the people out there doing the work to restore, enhance and save the resource.
Fisheries and Aquaculture
No angst locally around PAR licencing because our CA has made it clear he is looking after all the licences. For now.
There is an understanding that the Department will be insisting small stewardship and enhancement Societies “own” their own licences. In most cases this is met with outright shock. The question is “Why?” There are groups who, at this time, are saying that it is DFO’s responsibility and all we are doing is assisting so we will NOT hold the licence as it makes no sense. Until a reasonable and meaningful answer is given by the Department as to why on earth small, dedicated, long-term partners would be asked to take on the responsibility of DFO this resistance will grow.
There have been several instances of habitat infractions locally (wetlands drained without permits, water re-routed without recourse, fuel leak making its way into a stream, etc.) that have had no response from any level of government. Volunteer stewards are reporting these with absolutely no action taken. The harmful actions have resulted in a net loss of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.
Habitat, Oceans, Estuaries and Marine Protection, Rehabilitation and Enhancement
“Beach Wrack Harvesting” an experimental harvest of 1,000 tonnes of a seaweed species called Mazzaella japonica has received support from the Ministry of Agriculture From the shoreline between Deep Bay and Qualicum Bay with the harvesting of 11 million pounds of seaweed by 5 companies next year
Mid and Central Island stewards are hoping that this project will be reconsidered before more damage is done to the marine environment. Seaweed and other vegetation piled on the beach after storm events is what is called beach wrack. Depending on the type of beach and tides, the wrack will stay for a time and then be transported back into off-shore food webs. A recent study published in Estuaries and Coasts (2011) by Jennifer E. Dugan determined that decaying beach wrack exports substantial amounts of nutrients into nearshore (and estuary) ecosystems. Nutrients are required for plant life and plankton to grow, which in turn feeds smaller organisms that feed commercially important marine life such as salmon and shellfish.
Salmon Enhancement Hatcheries and Production Planning
Several members of the SEHAB Board are looking for opportunities to travel and meet with our constituents. As there is no budget, it has been suggested we talk to our CA and see if we can tag along when they go.
Community is looking for answers as to what the Federal Omnibus bills will mean to on the ground protection, stock assessments, the RAR and the Wild Salmon Policy.
Oyster River Enhancement Society reports the successful acquisition of te land that houses their hatchery – see attached letter
See attached documents…
Here is a letter Mid Vancouver Island Habitat Enhancement Society (MVIHES) sent to the Ministry of Agriculture about the harvesting of 11 million pounds of seaweed by 5 companies next year from Deep Bay to Qualicum Beach:
We were very excited to get volunteers involved in forage fish mapping in the Parksville / Qualicum Beach Wildlife Management Area in the past year. We felt that this was an activity that would help to address the need to protect the marine environment from further decline. The experience has certainly educated us about the importance of beach ecology and how that relates to the marine environment.
How ironic then that just as people are becoming aware of the importance of the beach wrack on our beaches and the loss of spawning habitat of forage fish (i.e. sand lance, surf smelt and herring) due to shoreline disruptions, a project like this comes along and adds more stressors to both issues.
We can appreciate the need for jobs in the area, but we believe those jobs have to be weighed against the losses in other areas, such as a healthy nearshore ecosystem, fishing and recreation. It's hard to believe that more than 11,000,000 pounds of seaweed per year can be taken out of the ecosystem in the 21 km of beachfront by 5 separate companies, their vehicles, equipment and workers, without major impacts occurring to the life that depends on that ecosystem.
MVIHES hopes that this project will be reconsidered before more damage is done to the marine environment. Thank you for your consideration.
Faye Smith, Project Coordinator MVIHES
Seagrass Conservation Working Group
c/o 1097 Fabrick Drive,
Qualicum Beach, BC
October 21, 2012
It was with some dismay that, through recent media coverage, we learned story of an experimental harvest of 1,000 tonnes of a seaweed species called Mazzaella japonica —from the shoreline between Deep Bay and Qualicum Bay on Vancouver Island.
At issue in the article was whether Comox Valley Regional Directors should advise the Agricultural Land Commission to approve the use of an old barn as a drying facility. We echo Councillor Edwin Grieve's concerns about the need for further investigation, especially given that the actual licences are for five companies with a total of 5,000 tonnes annually. It is our concern that the issue is the impact of removing massive amounts of organic matter from nearshore food webs, and other specific issues related to the harvest methods.
Seaweed and other vegetation piled on the beach after storm events is what is called beach wrack . Depending on the type of beach and tides, the wrack will stay for a time and then be transported back into off-shore food webs. A recent study published in Estuaries and Coasts (2011) by Jennifer E. Dugan determined that decaying beach wrack exports substantial amounts of nutrients into nearshore (and estuary) ecosystems. Nutrients are required for plant life and plankton to grow, which in turn feeds smaller organisms that feed commercially important marine life such as salmon and shellfish.
The beach wrack also has many other important roles that keep our ocean ecosystem working for the benefit of fishermen, the tourism industry, landowners and the general community. These include maintaining the backshore; providing food for many invertebrates, birds and animals while on the beach; and fertilizing the intertidal and sub-tidal through nutrients carried to the groundwater by rain.
The harvesting methods may sound benign but even hand harvesting with use of rakes and pitchforks could potentially disturb Sand lance or Surf smelt, forage fish that spawn in the upper intertidal. These fish are key to many ocean food chains including salmon, herring, various whales, and marine birds.
Sorting the beach wrack to ensure they only harvest the target species also presents a problem. Shaking a pitchfork is not a consistent or reliable approach. Sorting is also not enforceable legally and so presents further potential for impacts.
And the actual species being harvested is not clear. We have been made aware of some discrepancies in what is specifically to be harvested and for clarification purposes we would like see specialized marine biologist review this information so there is a shared understanding between MOA, MOE, the companies and the community at large.
Many aspects of the harvest can not be monitored, or legally controlled. There is considerable trust that the operators will follow guidelines regarding their licences including sorting the species, not raking to the substrate, limiting numbers of people working on site, using only hard substrates to travel on or beach boats upon, etc. We are concerned that initiation of this new industry could negatively impact the ability of the ecosystem and already existing industries to function, and interfere with landowners and residents' enjoyment of healthy beaches.
We understand that a university student is conducting some study on the potential impacts and we applaud this effort, but there needs to be an in-depth study , especially if this situation is to set a precedent for other areas of the Island or province. We need DFO, the province, and municipalities to create regulations controlling the harvest of our beach wrack, or risk losing our living beaches and the industries and quality of life they bring.
Community Coordinators for Seagrass Conservation Working Group
Diane Sampson - Deep Bay to Qualicum Bay
Michele Deakin - Qualicum Beach/Parksville
Leanna Boyer - Mayne Island
Dianne Sanford - Sunshine Coast
Edith Tobe - Squamish
Nikki Wright, Saanich Peninsula/Chair
CC: Michael Recalma, Qualicum First Nation
Gary Caine, Ministry of Agriculture
Various local and regional media
Various municipal, provincial and federal agencies and politicians
The Oyster River Enhancement Society has been undergoing some significant changes this past year. The land we sit on became a regional district park under the supervision of the Comox Regional District. We now are under a license to operate our hatchery in the park. As such it just means another level of government to deal with in our ongoing work. In addition to this our access point has changed and the new road and gating provides some new challenges in terms of maintenance and use. Finally, our long time hatcher manager Frank Petruzelka retired and we have hired Lyle Edmunds who apprenticed under Frank to take his place. In spite of these changes we have been able to maintain our hatchery and keep a watchful eye on the river.
Our escapements last fall were typical of previous years. We had about 500 chinook, 1300 chum, 10 000 coho and 35 000 pinks return in 2011. This spring we released the usual number of fry along with approximately 40 000 coho smolts. Soon we will release approximately 70 000 coho fry into the river and transfer 40 000 more to our rearing channel to be released next spring.
One major challenge to our society this year is in the area of funding. We had to apply twice to the gaming commission for operational funds. Our first attempt under the education category was denied. Then we reapplied under the environmental category and obtained a fraction of what we applied for and usually got. As such our monies available for paying our manager are dangerously low and we could be looking at drastically reducing our operation this fall. We are actively seeking alternative funding avenues, but while capital grants are common operational grants appear to be quite rare.
So while we have managed some significant changes this past year, we are faced with some new hurdles to surmount. Our hope is to sort out the financial matters and continue to enhance the river’s salmon and maintain the spawning channels that we have looked after for the last twenty years.
The Fisheries Act Protection Resolution
15 March 2012
Canadians expect their government, regardless of party or persuasion, to base environmental legislation on the best available science. Environmental legislation must be objective and conform with publicly-perceived long-term objectives and in keeping with stated government policy.
Sections 35 and 36 of The Fisheries Act were enacted in 1976 as a result of now classic work done by the Yale Forestry School, known as “The Hubbard Stream Experiments”, and work done by the Fisheries Research Board of Canada. They are based on a sound scientific foundation which is still fundamental to our understanding of riparian processes today.
In spite of enforcement problems, since their inception in 1976, Sections 35 and 36 of The Fisheries Act have served Canadians well. They have led to the recovery and protection of fish and wildlife populations. They have mitigated otherwise irreversible development impacts. They have provided guidance for the protection of endangered species and the related stated objectives of the Species at Risk Act.
BC Nature and its affliliated Naturalist Societies, are strongly opposed to any modification of sections 35 and 36 of The Fisheries Act which would limit habitat protection to “commercial species” and prioritize the economic needs of development and industry. To remain consistent with publicly-stated objectives, not to pollute and to protect the environment for forthcoming generations, habitat protection must be enhanced. In keeping with legal precedent in Federal Court (2012 FCA 4 ) concerning protection of endangered species, such as the Nooksack Dace (Rhinichys cataractae), sections 35 and 36 need to be extended to specify the need to protect “critical habitat”, and enforcement enhanced.
Dr. Loys Maingon (President)
Comox Valley Nature (Comox Valley Naturalists Society)