EDITORIAL: Ask about oysters

It's time for the DFO and Island Health to pay more attention to illegal shellfish harvesting in Parksville Qualicum Beach

Some people have zero respect for the environment and rules regarding ocean wildlife. And they don’t seem to care if they make themselves or some loved ones very ill.

Or, even more scary, the general public in the form of restaurant customers.

We have no solid proof any local restaurant is selling possibly contaminated oysters, but we would advise locals and tourists alike to ask your server where the shellfish is from before you dine. Reputable operations will be proud to tell you exactly where and when they got their oysters and other menu items.

We do know a few things related to shellfish harvesting that cannot be disputed (the first three points are from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans website):

• it is illegal to buy, sell or barter, or attempt to buy, sell or barter, any fish caught by sport fishing (recreational licence);

• due to sanitary contamination concerns, there is no harvesting of shellfish from the Rathtrevor Provincial Park boundary to French Creek, a closure that has been in effect for years;

• the daily limit for Pacific oysters in our region is 15 (recreational licence);

• people continue to illegally harvest shellfish by the bucket load in Parksville Bay and other closed areas in our region.

We get calls from concerned residents once in a while, people who live close to the water and witness groups of people pack large buckets with dozens, no, hundreds of oysters off the beach. We received such a call this week from a resident who views Parksville Bay from her deck.

This caller was suggesting the buckets of oysters were being walked to a local restaurant. We raced to the Bay to see if we could get photographic evidence of such, but we were too late. Our reader said the DFO has been notified. The law says any shellfish sold in a restaurant must be purchased (bags are tagged and traceable) from a licensed processor, not a guy who sells them to a proprietor at the back door of the eatery.

We understand the DFO doesn’t have a lot of staff these days. However, we’d suggest this issue demands serious attention and action from the DFO and Island Health. Any actions conducted by these government agencies should be made public in a timely manner to spread the word authorities are watching and penalties are very real for those who flout the law and put the health of residents in danger.

— Editorial by John Harding