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Oyster farmer jubilant as regional district approves rezoning application

More than 80 per cent of public hearing comments against proposal

Drew A. Penner/Echo Staff / Comox Valley Echo August 28, 2014 09:06 AM

(L-R) Roberta Stevenson, executive director of the BC Shellfish Growers Association with Shao Ping Kang and Jenny Xie were thrilled with the regional district’s decision to allow them to farm oysters in Baynes Sound. – See more at:

A 30-raft seafood operation proposed for Baynes Sound passed its biggest hurdle to date as the Comox Valley Regional District gave Shao Ping Kang the rezoning approval in he was seeking during its regularly scheduled meeting Aug. 26. It’s been a long and unfamiliar journey for Kang and his wife Jenny Xie, and after the amendment was officially adopted they left to celebrate.

“It’s not easy,” said Kang, beaming. “We just tried as hard as we can. We just try what we believe in.”
The political process was a tougher slog than Kang had expected. As residents south of Courtenay got wind of the plan to expand from a beach oyster growing operation on Denman Island to deepwater aquaculture on a 2.01 hectare section of Crown land licensed tenure of water between Union Bay and Buckley Bay, angst increased.
At a public hearing over 80 per cent of formal comments opposed Kang’s bid.
The Herring Industry Advisory Board also came out against the proposal.
Rural Area A director Bruce Jolliffe, who represents residents in that part of the Comox Valley, referred the issue for further consideration to the electoral areas services committee meeting on Aug. 11.
At that stage the other two rural area directors, Edwin Grieve and Jim Gillis, officially expressed full support of Kang’s application.

The stage was set for Jolliffe’s last chance to sway one of these two peers to oppose the motion at the CVRD full board meeting, since only Area A, B and C directors could vote of the amendment.
“This applicant has asked to add industrial structures in an area fronting primarily residential land,” Jolliffe said. “This will change the environment the residents in that area have come to expect.”
If the application involved a parcel of land instead of a section of ocean, the regional district would never push through something so many residents had opposed, he contended.
“Not supporting this rezoning has been construed as not supporting the prime industry in my area – the shellfish industry,” he said. “This is not the case. On land commercial and industrial land use is supported in some parts of the community and not other parts. Yet, that community still supports commerce and industry, it just wants appropriate commerce and appropriate industry in the appropriate places.”
The shellfish industry supports about 600 workers in the Baynes Sound area, but many contend this is pushing the ecosystem past the point of sustainability.
Jolliffe referred to the failure to implement a 2002 Baynes Sound Coastal Plan – which he helped bring back into play at the last board meeting – and said it wasn’t right to barge forward with further aquaculture in the region without a more detailed explanation of what kind of development should be permitted.
“We don’t have such a tool yet for the future use of Baynes Sound,” he said. “It’s been considered in the past and never acted on. The goal of the Baynes Sound Coastal Plan that was agreed to at the last board meeting is to put in place a proper plan that will balance the needs of the residents, the shellfish industry and the sustainability of Baynes Sound’s rich aquatic environment.”
But Roberta Stevenson, executive director of the BC Shellfish Growers Association, took issue with Jolliffe’s supposed support for the aquatic ecosystem of Baynes Sound, noting he originally voted in favour of Kang’s plan to grow thousands of oysters offshore, only bowing to Not In By Back Yard concerns mid-way through the process.
“At first he supported it,” she said. “He got a lot of pressure.”
She said aquaculture is more environmentally friendly than traditional British Columbia industries.
“British Columbia has traditionally been filled with a working coast kind of atmosphere. In the old days we had logging, we had fishing, we had seine boats and trawlers,” said the paid lobbyist, in an interview. “Nowadays one in every two pieces of seafood that you eat is farmed. Rather than seeing a trawler, you’re more likely to see a shellfish farm because that’s our food today. We’re very proud that we’re not taking a resource out of the wild – we’re putting back. We’re seeding and sowing.”
Xie noted that in some ways oysters actually help cleanse the ecosystem.
“They’re filter feeders,” she said, adding she hopes the community will see a benefit in the impact their business will have. “We understand the upland residents are against it. We can have the opportunity to hire more people to do work and everything. We believe what we’re applying is helping the environment and the economy too.”
Kang pledged to work hard to run a clean operation, adding he just wants to help people eat great seafood.
“We want people to get the best oysters,” he said. “It helps the community, too.”
Ultimately Jolliffe was unable to get the other rural directors to switch sides, and Kang’s bid was approved 2-1. Stevenson said she hopes those who voiced opposition to the project will come alongside the young family as they develop their small business.
“The fact that they’re willing to invest in this kind of fragile environment with so much urbanization – hat’s off to them. Because it’s high risk,” she said. “They’re willing to put their dollars on the line to chance it for you to eat that product. All we ask from the community is support.”

© Comox Valley Echo


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