No downside in Baynes Sound sea cucumber proposal

Dear editor,

Re: Baynes Sound beaches, foreshore and waters not for sale (Record, June 20).

Sea cucumber aquaculture on tenure: A clean sustainable industry that will have a positive environmental impact within the Baynes Sound ecosystem and provide another economic cornerstone for the Comox Valley. The tide is turning as many people have their questions answered.

At first we were disappointed that the anti-aquaculture, anti-government group were going door to door with misinformation and upsetting local folks unnecessarily and basically crying wolf. Just not cool!

Not one of those organizers had the insight or presence of mind to contact the applicants or the government agencies to get the truth about the application. The group then proceeded to contact hundreds of people to sign a petition against the application for a tenure for sea cucumbers that was based on false information.

We thought once we held our information meeting with the aquatic biologist, VIU researcher and two levels of government that most of the questions would be answered. The presentations at the June 13 meeting did provide the much of the information and did answer most of the questions; many people did listen and did get the answers.

We have since had dozens of letters of support and many more are on the way. We thank you for your sincere comments and support.

Some folks commented to me that they were embarrassed by the rude and disrespectful shouting that occurred from a few members of the crowd. These distractions were unproductive.

We are committed to provide the answers to their questions. This is a positive business story with no downside.

We want to focus on the positive aspects of the sea cucumber aquaculture plan that will be moving ahead with the government agencies. It is a sustainable-plus plan with a conservation component. We are hopeful that our environmentally sound approach will be welcomed by the government agencies and the public, and perhaps help set as a positive standard for Baynes Sound aquaculture.

We have set the environmental bar higher than normal because of past history in Baynes Sound. Our management plan notes sea cucumber aquaculture will have a very low impact and many benefits on an area from Gartley point to Buckley Bay.

We plan extensive aquaculture (natural sustainable densities) not intensive aquaculture (higher densities). As part of our restoration plan we will attempt to restore some kelp species that have been in decline since the 1960s.

This decline was partially due to kelp harvest and along with other factors caused an entire sub-tidal ecosystem to crash and unfortunately the kelp has never recovered.

The second conservation initiatives we note in our management plan on is mapping and restoration of eel grass beds. Why would we do this? Two reasons to note; these actions will create ideal sea cucumber habitat and they provide the vital links to the aquatic chain of life.

Here are some points to consider:

Sea cucumbers are the earthworms of the ocean. The comments to the editor in the last paper regarding the sea cucumber poop as a negative are totally wrong. Our biologist provided the correct information at the meeting.

Like the worms in your garden, the sea cucumber ingests rotting organic matter and recycles it and produces a very rich nutrient substrate that enhances the environment.

The research phase of our application will provide data that will be important to science. Those that comment about "not enough is known" should understand this is research and development.

Our aquaculture industry is based on this type of creativity and innovation solutions that are science-based.

We will be doing the research at our expense, providing jobs and putting millions of dollars back into the B.C. economy. There is no commercial component for this project during the initial research phases.

Our management plan as noted above will strive for natural density extensive sea cucumber open range farming, not intensive high density like you would see in other parts of the world. Therefore there is very low risk of issues like disease or genetic issues. Again, this has been documented as part of the research plan.

One of the loudest groups at the information meeting had serious concerns about the garbage and debris from aquaculture.

Nobody likes a beach cluttered with garbage. Where does this debris come from? The winter storms that hit Baynes Sound over the past few years were unforgiving and along the foreshore (intertidal) and along on the surface where existing aquaculture rafts are anchored the energy of the storm is at its worst.

There has been storm damage to these types of features. The sub-tidal aquaculture area where we are working is at minus 30 feet. Our oyster shell features and research fencing will not be affected by storms. The risk factor for debris from the project due to storm action is negligible.

We are only touching on a few points that were mentioned in the last paper and still welcome any group to send their questions directly to DBCS@shaw.ca.

We have also documented all the questions and answers  that were asked from the concerned residents meeting June 3 at the Fallen Alders Hall and questions from the proponents June 13 at the Union Bay Hall meeting.

The questions and answers will all be posted on the new website. This website is not up yet but we hope to have it up next week at www.greenoceanseacucumbers.com,

Dan Bowen,


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