News

Resident wants seaweed harvest in Deep Bay/Bowser banned

Last month a controversial seaweed harvest in the Deep Bay/Bowser region was given the green light by government to continue for another season.

But the news isn't sitting well with at least one Bowser resident who is calling on the Regional District of Nanaimo to stop the harvest.

Dianne Eddy, a Bowser resident of 18 years, said she worries removing a "significant" amount of seaweed from the base of nearby cliffs will increase the risk of landslides and erosion in the area. Eddy said 75 to 80 homes may be at risk.

"I am asking, on behalf of local residents, that the RDN initiate a risk assessment," Eddy said in an e-mail sent out to fellow residents, media and local government representatives including RDN director Bill Veenhof.

Eddy said she wants to see "a geotechnical hazard assessment to determine the risk to the bluff area by the removal of massive amounts of seaweed" before the start of the oncoming season slated for Sept. 15.

"This would be a proactive approach to a potential hazard," said Eddy, adding it is the "responsibility" of the RDN to protect residents and properties from damage caused by "willful human activities."

However, Veenhof said undertaking a risk assessment through the RDN would be "very costly" and not all that constructive.

"We're talking about an area from the Deep Bay spit to Bowser," he said. "Hypothetically, if harvesting seaweed does cause damage to the foreshore and erosion to private property then the RDN would still be powerless to do anything about it."

Veenhof said from a legal perspective the issue would fall to individual landowners — and it would be up to them to take action by suing harvesters or confronting the Ministry of Agriculture.

"There is enough wasted taxpayer dollars going on without me jumping in and doing something like this," he said. "I see the effort as a bit of a waste because very little would come out of it in a positive sense."

Veenhof said he's been vocal with the Ministry to do more scientific research and public consultation about the seaweed harvest in Deep Bay.

"Mrs. Eddy is correct in that this issue should be looked at but it is a provincial responsibility," he said. "I continue to press RDN staff to leave no stone unturned, but at the end of the day it is the Ministry's responsibility."

The seaweed harvest is part of a government-issued pilot project started in 2006. In the last few years it has split the community of Deep Bay/Bowser between those who oppose the harvest fearing the removal of seaweed will lead to environmental degradation and those who support the harvest for its economic potential. The main purpose of the harvest is to extract carrageenans, a resource valued for its thickening properties and commonly found in cosmetic and food products. It is estimated the carrageenanan market is worth $700 million worldwide.

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