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Local beaches under attack
Outsiders are stripping local beaches of shellfish, says one Qualicum Beach resident, and she wants it to stop.
Speaking at Tuesday night's Regional District of Nanaimo meeting, Eileen Becker said she is fed up with seeing people digging up area beaches for shellfish, with little or no oversight.
"Fisheries was cut back and they are hard-pressed to monitor the area," Becker said. "The beaches in this area are very unique, with diverse habitats and species, but they are being plundered by shellfish harvesting, much of it without licenses."
She said shellfish harvesters often leave large, gaping holes behind them, which she said is a death sentence to baby clams.
"They have no respect for limits," she said. "Many areas have seen their marine life devastated. When you remove one species, it affects all the others. In a short time we could have nothing more than a dead beach."
Becker called for the entire beach area to be designated as a provincial park, as she believes it would lead to having at least one park ranger on site, who could make sure the beaches were protected.
"Do we want a dead beach or a living one?" she asked. "There is no enforcement. They are there every day with sacks and buckets."
In response, French Creek director and board chair Joe Stanhope agreed there is a problem.
“I’ve chased them off my beach more than once while they were carrying five-gallon buckets they expected to fill up,” he said.
Bowser-Deep Bay director Bill Veenhof noted the issue is a concern in his area as well. However, he stressed he didn’t want to see legal shellfish harvesting eliminated.
“I assume you are not trying to restrict legal harvesting,” he said. “Local residents have done it for years.”
“I hope a provincial park would give us more enforcement,” she said. “The local people could still do their digging.”
Veenhof agreed the problem doesn’t just stem from the illegal harvesters, but also from the lack of enforcement to catch them.
Gabriola Island director Howard Houle concurred, noting beaches in his area have been similarly stripped.
“They come by the busload,” he said. “The DFO (Department of Fisheries and Oceans) tells us to take a picture of the licence plate and send it to them. It’s getting to be a bigger problem all the time.”
Directors thanked Becker for her presentation but took no immediate action on the issue.