A cluster of seemingly abandoned vessels continues to threaten the shellfish industry in Baynes Sound.
The Canadian Coast Guard removed 6,000 litres of oil last month from a 100-foot tug boat that was “listing dangerously” in Deep Bay Harbour, according to Daniel Reid, CCG senior response officer.
Reid said the boat, known as the Silver King, appears to be abandoned and has four seemingly derelict vessels tied to it.
VIU Marine Station manager Brian Kingzett said Baynes Sound is especially at-risk when it comes to derelict vessels.
“If one of those vessels sink, if there is even one small oil spill, it is very probable that it could put the shellfish industry out of business for at least a year,” said Kingzett.
He noted that would put 40 to 50 people out of work and cost the shellfish industry around $20 million in economic activity.
“Coast guards estimate removing a large vessel would cost probably $250,000,” said Kingzett. “But if it sinks — and that one (the Silver King) was starting to sink — the cost would go up to millions of dollars, and that’s all taxpayer money.”
He said there is “tenfolds of difference” in removing a vessel while it’s still floating as opposed to removing it after it sinks.
Reid said the Silver King was brought to the attention of the coast guard by a concerned resident in July, but the vessel has been under the CCG’s radar since The NEWS reported it in January.
“The goal is ultimately to find a person responsible for it (the vessel),” said Reid. “It’s a polluter-pay principle.”
But tracking down boat owners isn’t easy.
“People buy these boats for nothing thinking they can fix them and then realize it will cost way too much to maintain and then abandon them,” Kingzett said, adding boat registrations are often not updated make it difficult to find owners. “It’s irresponsible, but in a way, they’re forced to do it.”
Kingzett said the problem is Canada’s lack of “enabling legislation.” He explains Washington state has a “turn-in program” where vessel-owners may request for their boat to be destroyed.
“Nobody is funding a program like that (in Canada),” said Kingzett. “So the issue falls through the cracks.”
Meanwhile RDN director Bill Veenhof, who represents Deep Bay, said Transport Canada may have funds in place to address the Silver King. However, if those funds do not come through he vowed to write a letter to senior levels of government requesting $250,000 for the purpose of removing the vessel from the Deep Bay Harbour.