Letter: Clarifying situation with oyster farm

T'Sou-ke chief answers some of the questions about proposed oyster farm venture

Dear Mr. Gilligan,

Thank you for your comments regarding the proposed oyster farm development within the Sooke Basin. We understand your concerns and so would like to clarify the situation to you and the local community.

The T’Sou-ke First Nation intends to engage the local community in information sessions to explain the development in far greater detail than is possible in newspaper advertising. These sessions will be well advertised and we will ensure you are invited to partake.

With reference to your point on the great potential for recreational use of the basin: We agree whole heartily that the potential of the basin in this regard is yet to be fully realized. The T’Sou-ke nation intends to develop eco-cultural tourism within this area making use of its rich cultural history and natural environment. The nation believes that, far from preventing this kind of development, the oyster farm can be used to enhance it. In the face of an ever changing economic outlook in the world, the community of Sooke and the T’Sou-ke First Nation, must ensure a balanced approach to economic development to ensure all of the community’s assets are utilised wisely and to the benefit of all. Food production will be key in this development but the T’Sou-ke First Nation believes tourism and food production can coexist and even be of mutual benefit to one another.  A larger and more diverse local economy will benefit all citizens of Sooke and Canada.

T’Sou-ke has attracted significant foreign investment to the local economy.  The oyster farm development will bring much needed employment opportunities into the T’Sou-ke community, the Sooke community and in turn to the greater Sooke retail community.  These real economic benefits cannot be considered as less valid than future potential tourism developments.

The oyster farm plan has been carefully developed to ensure minimal impact on the basin in terms of leisure use, navigation and environment.   The tenure application has been reviewed by a number of agencies including; Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations; Fisheries and Oceans Canada: Fisheries Protection Program, and Navigable Waters; and Environment Canada, Canadian Wildlife Service, to name a few.  The tenure application has met the stringent obligations of these agencies.

The longline arrays have been designed with minimum 20m spacing between lines to allow all but the largest vessels to pass through the farm unhindered.  Additionally longlines will be sunk at least 5m below the surface so that, in effect, any vessel with keel depth of less than 5m could pass over the lines without obstruction. The gaps between lines ensure that static fishing gear can be used within and around the farm without causing problems to the farm operatives or the recreational fishers. The T’Sou-ke First Nation has no intention of preventing access to the central area of the basin.

Oysters are well known for their “filter feeding” abilities. They pump large volumes of water across their gills, and filter food and particulates from the water column.  There would likely be a net benefit to the local environment from the oysters by filtering silt and other tiny particles from the water column, improving the water clarity within the local area.

B.C.’s shellfish industry relies on a clean pollution-free environment.  As such, shellfish growers including the T’Sou-ke First Nation have become advocates and activists for a healthier environment. Shellfish growers’ efforts ensure B.C.’s waters remain clean, to which we all benefit.

With reference to the last point made, we must be very clear when speaking about rights and privileges. As made clear above, the T’Sou-ke First Nation has no intention of infringing on people’s rights. Substantial efforts during planning have been made to ensure that other water users may continue to use the basin in much the same way as they have done in the recent times. The rights of land owners around the basin are riparian and extend only as far as the water line. The use of minimal, and view sensitive flotation at the farm site is planned at additional cost, and under no obligation by the T’Sou-ke First Nation to keep visual impact to an absolute minimum.

The T’Sou-ke First Nation’s traditional territory extends over the waters of the basin and the Nation’s use of it as a food source through fishing and aquaculture has been considered their right for time immemorial. We have, through planning this development tried to ensure the rights and privileges of all are considered and respected as much as possible. We ask that our right to economic development within our traditional territory be considered also, and that those with concerns regarding the development engage with us in constructive discussion.

 

Hych-ka

Chief Gordon Planes

T’Sou-ke First Nation