Sea cucumber farm details made public
Lise Broadley, Comox Valley Echo
Published: Tuesday, July 31, 2012
If the applicants have their way, two proposed sea cucumber farms in Baynes Sound could involve underwater netting, tubing and cement blocks.
The management plans for the aquaculture ventures were released last week following a Freedom of Information request and they show more details about the proposed sea cucumber farms – one covering 155 hectares and the other 107.
Those details include different options for creating environments attractive for juvenile sea cucumbers, as well as a better idea of the seeding and harvesting plans for the two tenures.
“In the sub-tidal nursery areas, the juvenile sea cucumbers need protection from predators for the first 6-8 months. We have identified several known predators such as diving ducks, sea stars, crabs and fish. We will use several methods of on-bottom protection for the juveniles as part of the research,” he wrote.Dan Bowen, one of the applicants in the larger venture and a consultant on the smaller, wrote the nearidentical management plans for the joint research and commercial operations. In the plan he indicates that a number of options exist for placing predator protection in the subtidal area of Baynes Sound.
“The planned physical nursery area will have several natural oyster shelled features in specific patterns with different shapes contained with heavy fish net, poly-coated gabion and/or concrete cube or reef ball type protection to be placed on the substrate to provide sanctuary for the juvenile sea cucumbers. The sea cucumbers will remain in the protected area for about five to six months.”
The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources is in the process of weighing the application for Crown land tenure. If granted, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and Transport Canada will also have to provide approval for specific parts of the project before it can go ahead. The formal public comment period on the tenure application wrapped up this week, but the Ministry has indicated that written comments will still be accepted until they make a written report on the matter. It’s not clear when that will be.
The proposed sea cucumber farms have drawn plenty of ire from Comox Valley residents who fear the industrialization of Baynes Sound. The body of water is a popular recreational area and already home to numerous shellfish growers responsible for about half the commercial shellfish grown in B.C.
A recent meeting of the Friends of Baynes Sound, a group formed in reaction to the proposed farms, drew over 100 people concerned about their impact and bent on preventing the applications from being approved.
Until the business plans were released last week, some details of the aquaculture farms have been unavailable to the public; however some areas of the plans are blacked out under Section 21 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. Under Section 21, items can be held back from public knowledge if they could be harmful to the business interests of a third party.
The proposed management plan indicates that there will be no need for marker floats, though Bowen has since said that buoys may be necessary to mark specific locations in Baynes Sound.
Also in the plan, Bowen describes how the young sea cucumbers, grown at the Gartley Point Hatchery, will be seeded and harvested.
“To schedule harvest times, we are working with an area rotation within the tenure based on three larger areas. Each are will be planted at one year intervals in order to get annual harvest times. Within each area… nursery stations will be set up. (25 nursery areas each year for three years). Each 1.0 ha nursery area will contain five nursery stations. This planting strategy will start up the timing for the harvest cycle that will be able to provide product that will be available 12 months of the year from the larger tenure area of 1.55 ha,” wrote Bowen.
The management report indicated that there have been ongoing discussions with DFO to ensure that the sea cucumbers remain in the designated area and don’t interfere with the natural population, though Bowen and the applicants argue that containment is not necessary.
“In both cases out research will provide hard scientific data to resolve these DFO concerns… Based on…past research and the research of other biologists who have written reports and abstracts about sea cucumbers’ movement we will confirm that containment is not necessary. Our biologists will provide a record of sea cucumber movement, it will be a revelation.””In our discussions with DFO and others there is clear message of concern that there is the need to contain sea cucumbers within the tenure. DFO has advised our group from the first discussions that they have two main issues they believe must be addressed. First, the possible genetic variation of hatchery spawned Parastichopus californicus by escapement and interacting with the wild stock. Second concern is introduction of disease of hatchery stock,” he wrote.
Bowen then goes on to indicate that fencing, as requested by DFO, creates an unhealthy environment and an unpopular product with consumers.
However, at a meeting hosted by the proponents in June, Bowen said that DFO still required the use of underwater fencing to contain the animals.
To submit written comments on the proposed farms email AuthorizingAgency.Nanaimo@ gov.bc.ca or write to the manager, aquaculture, Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations at 2500 Cliffe Avenue, Courtenay, B.C., V9N 5M6.
© Comox Valley Echo 2012