Opinion

EDITORIAL: Shellfish support

If Roberta Stevenson sounds defensive, it may be appropriate to cut her some slack.

The executive director of the B.C. Shellfish Growers' Association is feeling pressure from all sides these days. Or at least three fronts.

In an interview with The NEWS this week, Stevenson made an unsolicited plea to the people of Vancouver Island (see story page A1):

"We need support, not criticism," she said.

It's Stevenson's job to lobby for her employers, the companies that produce some of the most sought-after shellfish in the world. It's a tough time for these producers, whose industry kicks $32 million into the B.C. economy and 1,000 jobs.

As she spoke with The NEWS this week, shellfish producers were facing pressure on at least three fronts:

• the anti-shellfish-farming lobby.

• the up-in-the-air Raven coal mine proposal, which shellfish producers say will, if allowed to proceed, devastate their industry.

• Mother Nature and/or humans, which have turned the waters of the Georgia Strait into a more acidic sea due to the absorption of more CO2, which is threatening the ability of oysters and scallops to form a solid shell and reproduce. As to this last, most serious threat to the industry, Stevenson said: "As if we don't have enough problems."

In her interview with The NEWS, Stevenson wasn't asked about the pressure from lobby groups or what the public should think about her industry. But she offered this, seemingly her contribution to the 100-mile diet and referencing the waters around Parksville Qualicum Beach and Baynes Sound:

"The public needs to be pretty thankful they have food to eat out front."

The companies that are the BCSGA have been pumping money into research in an attempt to develop an oyster that can better deal with the acidic waters. They are also asking for help from the provincial and federal governments for this research.

Considering the recent comments from a local mayor who believes the Island is being ignored by Victoria and Ottawa, we'd suggest this would be a good opportunity for our MP and MLA to prove the opposite.

— Editorial by John Harding

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