Scientific study may determine fate of controversial Bowser/Deep Bay seaweed harvest
UVic graduate student Jessica Holden and field technician Shaun MacNeil take seaweed samples and measure the volume of wrack on the beach in Deep Bay for a government granted research study.
By Candace Wu – Parksville Qualicum Beach News
posted Jan 15, 2015 at 9:00 AM
The fate of a controversial seaweed harvest polarizing the community of Deep Bay may now be in the hands of science.
In an effort to get to the bottom of the harvest, researchers have been trolling the coastline looking for answers.
By way of a contract granted by the Ministry of Agriculture, Vancouver Island University’s Deep Bay Marine Field Station is now monitoring the ecological activities around a seemingly abundant species of seaweed blanketing the beach.
And according to regional district director Bill Veenhof, the results will determine the future of the harvest.
“What we learn from this (research) will shape if the harvest goes forward,” promised Veenhof, who represents Deep Bay/Bowser.
The director is well aware of the contention the seaweed harvest has caused in a divided Deep Bay, at one point saying it “defined” his first term in office.
Project lead and manager of the Marine Station Brian Kingzett admits there are “competing narratives in the community” when it comes to the seaweed harvest.
Kingzett maintains they are a “non advocacy research group and will be providing science to the topic.”
The study comes after years of an ongoing debate between those who oppose the harvest fearing the removal of seaweed will lead to environmental degradation and those who support the harvest for its economic potential.
Seaweed harvesters are after a red algae called Mazzaella japonica, a foreign species believed to be introduced to Deep Bay’s coast more than 80 years ago with a shipment of oyster seed from Japan.
Mazzaella japonica is valuable because it is rich in carrageenans, a compound used as a gelling and thickening agent in an array of products from cosmetics to pharmaceuticals. Some have estimated the carrageenan market is worth $700 million worldwide.
While many believe the bountiful supply of seaweed already on the beach may be the bread and butter of an untapped industry, others are critical of the long term effects of removing mounds of beach cast away.
In 2013, Ian Birtwell led and released a biological review called Seaweed Harvesting on the East Coast of Vancouver Island, confirming the seaweed being harvested off the coast of Deep Bay “has a direct influence on those organisms higher in the food chain.”
According to the report, it has been well-documented that when seaweed is detached and washed ashore, like the mounds in Deep Bay, it can “provide readily available nourishment for organisms at the base of the food chain. In the location of Baynes Sound that food chain includes the organisms that are used for food by fish, birds and mammals …”
However, VIU researcher Dr. Sarah Dudas warns: “While this harvest has raised environmental concerns, the available information to date has been largely based on literature reviews and anecdotal observations.”
In an effort to separate fact from fiction, researchers have taken to the beach to figure out what kind of effect the seaweed harvest is having on Deep Bay.
Last week, The NEWS caught up with field technician Shaun MacNeil and UVic graduate student Jessica Holden during one of their weekly sampling and monitoring excursions off Deep Bay’s coastline.
Surrounded by wracks of red algae carpeting the five-kilometre stretch of the harvest, MacNeil explains researchers are taking weekly estimates of the volume of seaweed, taking ancillary observations of wildlife and faunal activity associated with seaweed, collecting seaweed samples to investigate the invertebrate community and composition within them, comparing pre- and post- harvest notes and taking monthly assessments of forage fish spawning presence, absence and overlap with beach activities.
MacNeil said the sampling program is based on two approaches: a large scale volume estimate of the entire beach area; and a series of standard monitoring transects for ecological studies.
They have six different sites which they are monitoring in the midst of the seaweed harvest season which spans from the access point of Buccaneer Beach to the Deep Bay RV Park.
“The harvesters also provide us with data,” said MacNeil, who added that the three licence-holders have been “co-operative” with the research.
“They’ve given up areas for us to use as control sites,” he said. “They’ve been really good.”
Researchers are slated to submit their report by March 25.
LWMP Open House Introduces Options and Cost Estimates
January 12, 2015
A shortlist of wastewater management scenarios and the estimated costs for a wastewater management service in the Comox Valley Regional District (CVRD)’s south region will be introduced at an open house, scheduled for Wednesday, January 21, at the Union Bay community hall from 4 to 7 p.m.
The event will include informational boards, with project staff and engineering consultants available to update the community on the shortlisted scenarios.
“The community has been very interested in this project for a long time. This is a critical stage where important information is coming forward and we need to hear their feedback,” said Bruce Jolliffe, chair of the CVRD’s board of directors and director for Baynes Sound-Denman Hornby Islands (Area ‘A’). “Everyone in the community is encouraged to come and learn about the process and options and to share their thoughts.”
The open house is the second in the south region liquid waste management planning (LWMP) process which was launched in May to review options for wastewater management and water resource recovery in the area, and to identify the best solution for providing effective sewer service for the Royston and Union Bay area.
“We want people to learn about the work we are doing and to ask questions so we can be sure the final decision is ultimately the best one,” said Kris La Rose, CVRD’s manager of liquid waste planning.
The Comox Valley Regional District is a federation of three electoral areas and three municipalities providing sustainable services for residents and visitors to the area. The members of the regional district work collaboratively on services for the benefit of the diverse urban and rural areas of the Comox Valley.
Clam farming opportunities sowing seeds for a B.C. turf war
VANCOUVER — The Globe and Mail
A clam fishery that produces a harvest worth about $50-million a year has become the focus of intense lobbying efforts as groups manoeuvre for control of some of the prime growing sites in British Columbia.
The Pacific geoduck (pronounced gooey-duck) is the largest burrowing clam in the world and since the late 1970s, when divers learned to dislodge the bivalves from hard-packed sand using jet streams of water, the wild fishery has grown into one of the most prosperous on the West Coast.
Management guidelines to govern how the aquaculture industry can expand without damaging the wild fishery were due out last year but are still pending. Now one company has grown tired of waiting.
In a recent letter to federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea, Haida Seafood Products Ltd., a company partly owned by the Old Massett Village Council, states that it is going to mark out the boundaries of a new geoduck farm on the north coast of Haida Gwaii, and simply go into production without awaiting government approval.
“Fisheries and Oceans and the Underwater Harvesters Association [UHA] will be notified that our tenure site is off limits to any and all commercial fisheries,” states the letter. “We will purge harvest the wild geoduck on the tenure site to free up space for geoduck seeding.”
Daniel Rabu, CEO of Haida Seafood Products, said the guidelines have been delayed because of UHA lobbying, and his company has grown frustrated waiting for change.
“We’ve come to a point where we are no longer prepared to accept the delays,” said Mr. Rabu.
He said the site the company is claiming is a small portion of the area harvested by the wild geoduck fishery.
“We focused on a 50-hectare site, which is less than 1.8 per cent of the total area that is commercially fished in Haida Gwaii right now. So we are not taking a lot away from them,” he said.
James Austin, President of the UHA, which represents wild geoduck fishermen, said the Haida Seafood threat is troubling.
Mr. Austin said stakeholders have spent years in discussions with the DFO over the guidelines and it is wrong for the Haida company to act unilaterally.
“They are walking away from the application process,” he said. “Of course, we object to that. They are basically saying screw you to the Department of Fisheries. And that is offensive.”
Mr. Austin said the UHA understands the demand for increased geoduck farm sites, but pointed out that setting aside clam beds for aquaculture will reduce the wild-fishery areas.
“Our fishery is always concerned about losing grounds,” he said.
Some geoduck farms already exist in the Strait of Georgia but the new guidelines will open the entire coast to applications. Mr. Austin said the farms that will be proposed will range in size from 10 to 100 hectares.
“So extrapolate that around the coast a few times and we would lose significant ground,” he said. “Essentially it’s reallocation. It’s expropriation of the wild fishery in favour of aquaculture, without compensation to the wild fishery.”
DFO did not provide a representative to take questions on the issue, but Frank Stanek, manager of media relations, responded with an e-mail saying the government “will continue to work with interested stakeholders including the Haida, to address their concerns and facilitate opportunities for them to develop aquaculture operations.”
Response from Manatee Holdings: http://sustainableaquaculture.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/TorontoGlobeandMail8.pdf
First Meeting – Next Generation Shellfish Hatchery Project Jan 26,2015
January 14, 2015 — bkingzett
Commercial shellfish hatcheries are knowledge intensive, multi-component, highly integrated facilities. Technological advances continue worldwide in key individual components of hatchery systems (e.g. algal lighting and food production systems; hygiene and pasteurization technologies, water treatment and especially in water quality monitoring systems), yet no facility in BC has integrated the available advances into an operating hatchery. BC needs to develop the “next generation” hatchery systems and operational protocols which embrace these new technologies to increase seed production certainty, increase total seed production, improve efficiencies, reduce costs and enhance environmental performance.
This project seeks to advance shellfish hatchery design to a next generation level; incorporate within this “nextgen” design, monitoring and mitigation technologies to address ocean acidification (OA); transfer this technology information to shellfish industry stakeholders, and; apply this knowledge to bridge the gap in shellfish hatchery production to address the seed crisis in the BC industry.
After 2 years of trying, VIU has just received funding to proceed with this initiative. We are not developing specific new technologies but rather doing a global aggregation of new technologies and best practices that we will then be testing and demonstrating in a very public way.
At the immediate level we will be attempting to act as the “consumer reports” of shellfish hatchery and nursery equipment where we will report publicly on new technologies, how they work, operating costs, and in some cases side by side comparisons e.g. algal culture systems. This is very practical information that will give confidence to individuals setting up new hatcheries or renovating existing facilities. Interested parties will literally be able to come in and see items demonstrated in real world conditions. This platform will also allow us to train the next generation of hatchery operators.
The federal funding support that we have received will only supply the equipment to create this nextgen hatchery platform. We will need to generate additional research funds in order to conduct the work. We will do this through partnerships with industry, government, other research institutions and scientists.
If you are interested in the future of shellfish seed in BC, and this project, we invite you to attend this briefing and participate in the discussion.
Please RSVP to Simah.Dodd@viu.ca by January 22d so we know how many individuals to expect.