“They may put the aquaculture industry in Baynes Sound right out of business.”
To the Introduction: The Raven and the Oysters:
Mathew Wright is the Marketing and Communications Manager for the BC Shellfish Growers Association.
LOUIS: How many or what percentage of the oyster growers in the Baynes Sound area does your organization, the British Columbia Shellfish Growers Association, represent?
MATHEW: Sixty per cent.
LOUIS: How many full time jobs does the shellfish industry in Baynes Sound provide?
MATHEW: About 600 full time jobs.
LOUIS: Are you satisfied with the pre-application process that the Raven Coal Project has gone through?
MATHEW: No. Absolutely not. We were hoping for an independent third party review. Also, in their pre-application, there was no mention of any base line studies in Baynes Sound.
LOUIS: Has your organization participated in or initiated any base line environmental assessments of the waters of Baynes Sound?
MATHEW: No we have not, mostly due to lack of funding as we are a very small organization and we are heavily pushing for the proponent to conduct these studies.
LOUIS: Do you know anything about the sewage treatment infrastructure program in which the Comox Valley may participate, and how will that affect Baynes Sound shellfish?
MATHEW: I can’t really comment much about that. I know that there has been a meeting months and months ago about that and the problem was where the treatment plant and outflow pipes would go. As I understand it, we have a problem with the plant possibly being located in Royston and the outflow pipes going out toward Tree Island where the prevailing currents may direct the effluent into Baynes Sound and possibly cause problems despite the dilution levels.
LOUIS: What are the chief concerns that the BCSGA has with the Raven Coal Project?
MATHEW: They may put the aquaculture industry in Baynes Sound right out of business. For example, the west side of Vancouver Island, the beach at Toquaht Bay, has just now been closed because of the heavy arsenic levels from a mine that was closed in 1968. Although it was an iron ore mine, the heavy metal output levels of coal mining and iron ore mining would be the same. The local First Nations band has an aquaculture industry there and there are other people who harvest shellfish in Toquaht Bay. Therefore the effects of mining is felt for decades and then the cleanup is left to taxpayers as the companies obligations are no longer in place. The Raven Coal Project is unprecedented as it is only five kilometers upstream of Baynes Sound and the shellfish industry there. Shellfish are like the canaries in the mines; they are filter feeders and pick up any pollutants that are in the water.
LOUIS: Is DFO [the Department of Fisheries and Oceans] doing enough to protect the shellfish industry in BC?
MATHEW: Are you asking about the economic protection or the environmental protections?
LOUIS: We can discuss the economic side of DFO’s activities.
MATHEW: DFO is not doing enough to protect the long term viability of the shellfish industry. The management practices are hampering progress because DFO is treating the shellfish industry as a wild fishery rather than as farming.
LOUIS: What do you see as the future direction of the BC shellfish industry?
MATHEW: The regulators must open the system up for more expansion and make it a little easier for farmers to increase production. For instance, we are not allowed to farm abalone. BC could be a leader world wide. The industry cannot keep up with the demand for the products. The world wide demand for shellfish is growing like crazy and BC is poised to take the lead role. We have pure water which is so important for our industry.
LOUIS: What kind of environmental protection legislation do you think the shellfish industry of BC needs?
MATHEW: There has been some talk of designating Baynes Sound as a shellfish protection area. Maybe we could have legislation about owners who live adjacent to shellfish harvesting waters taking care of their septic systems. Perhaps better legislation about large vessels dumping sewage and waste into our waters but it would be hard to enforce.
LOUIS: Thank you for the interview, I appreciate the time you have given me.
To the interview with John Tapics, Compliance Coal Corporation
To the Introduction: The Raven and the Oysters