General News · 7th December 2009
In October, the Klahoose First Nation made application to the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands for a 15.7 hectare shellfish license to grow oysters and mussels on the south west side of the Gorge Harbour. This application was made in an area previously designated by the Province for that purpose through an interim treaty measure with Klahoose. This application has generated many, many of letters of response into the formal Ministry comment period.
The Strathcona Regional District’s formal response included a letter from the planning department and a letter from me. The planning department stated that a rezoning of the subject site to an appropriate aquaculture zoning category would be required to facilitate the proposal as presented.
Below is a summary of my letter dated November 27th.
I applaud the Klahoose First Nation’s efforts to secure rights to aquaculture operations in their traditional territory. I support keeping resource use in local hands where decision-making, jobs and profits remain to a large extent within our community and aquaculture, as Cortes has known for years, is certainly a good way to generate some of that local employment.
I would assert that this application, just like any other, must trigger good community process, be well informed by the ecological environment into which it is applying, not substantially conflict with existing uses, and follow all legal requirements.
Good community process
We need new aquaculture zones to better serve the workers and residents of Cortes Island as well as some level of mutually agreed upon noise control. Also, in 2010, we will be reviewing the Cortes Official Community Plan. And finally, we need resolution to the pending legal matter between Island Sea Farms and the Strathcona Regional District.
We need good scientific analysis of the ecological carrying capacity of the Gorge Harbour and its ability to support additional shellfish loads. In 2003, it was determined by the Province that the Gorge could support additional rafts. This was based on what was, at that time, purely oyster cultivation. We need to be assured that the raft expansion plan is still ecologically viable given the cultivated species shift from oysters largely to mussels; mussels being heavier feeders.
Conflicts with existing uses
The Gorge Harbour is a highly prized area for residents, tourists, boaters and shellfish growers alike. There are substantial concerns by some Cortes residents and business owners that the application, as presented, would unduly obstruct navigable water routes in the Gorge as well as take away from moorage, safe anchor areas and a sea plane landing and take-off route. These issues need to be duly considered and addressed prior to issuance of the license. There is also the ongoing concern about noise from these raft systems, and until this issue has been better addressed I do not think it wise to further exacerbate the concern.
A requirement of the provincial licensing agreement is that the applicant must comply with local zoning bylaws. I would therefore request that the license be withheld until rezoning has been successful.
I want to see the long-term success of both the Cortes aquaculture industry as a whole and of Klahoose’s aquaculture operations specifically. Although my recommendations would not lead to the quickest decision on this matter, I think it imperative to tread with real mindfulness and ensure that we make our best collective effort for the long-term wellbeing of the Cortes aquaculture industry.
As Regional Director for Cortes Island, I recommend that this application be put on hold until:
- the Cortes OCP review process is complete – anticipated completion Dec 2010;
- the legal proceedings between Island Sea Farms and the Strathcona Regional District are resolved; and
- the applicant has successfully rezoned the proposed site through the standard Strathcona Regional District procedures.