(Editor’s note: added to the bottom of this story by NEWS reporter Candace Wu is an unedited news released from the provincial government we received on Tuesday morning.)
While winter storm season seems a lifetime away under the beaming August sun, those temperamental winds have been kicking up contention in Deep Bay for years.
The gusty winds leave the sandy, pristine coastline covered in a blanket of detached seaweed, collectively known as wrack.
And it’s that seemingly abundant beachcast that’s drawing a line between economic potential and environmental protection in the quaint community north of Qualicum Beach.
But now answers may be closer than ever.
Last week, a first-time study conducted by Vancouver Island University Deep Bay Marine Field Station, by way of a grant from the Ministry of Agriculture, was made public and tomorrow evening the Station will host a free public information session about their study and findings from 7-9 p.m. Wednesday.
After observing the recent 2014-15 harvest season, the study suggests “the amount of seaweed removed is small relative to the amount that accumulates over the winter season… the removal of Mazzaella japonica from the marine environment would not have a negative impact… “
The study is good news for Stormy Shores owner Jason Rose, one of the harvest’s licence-holders.
“It was positive for us,” Rose, who’s planning on attending the presentation tomorrow, told
The NEWS on Thursday.
He said he wasn’t surprised by much of the data as he’s been keeping a close eye on the seaweed in question for more than six years.
“I had a pretty good idea of the volumes that were coming in and the effect our equipment was making,” he said.
Rose and other harvesters are after the foreign red algae Mazzaella japonica, a valuable source of carrageenans widely used as a thickener in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. It’s been estimated the carrageenan market is worth $700 million worldwide, but B.C. is yet to tap into the industry.
In 2007 the B.C. government started a pilot project issuing seaweed harvesting licences. However, the government has taken heat from locals and environmentalists who fear removing a resource like seaweed from the coast may have catastrophic consequences. Protests have been hosted on the beach, a petition sent to the legislature and a group of retired scientists even voluntarily put together a 36-page study in 2013 confirming the seaweed being harvested off the coast of Deep Bay “has a direct influence on those organisms higher in the food chain” and there is a “scientific basis for concern.”
VIU’s research efforts are a first of its kind, but Bowser resident Dianne Eddy said the study is too little, too late.
“It’s in hindsight,” Eddy, who’s vocally opposed the harvest in the past, told The NEWS last week.
“They started the study after seaweed had been being removed from the beach for several years, and (this specific study) started after the so-called harvest season began.”
Eddy said she feels “frustrated” with how the harvest is being handled and is calling for a moratorium on it until a long term scientific study has been conducted and peer reviewed.
“Monitor it for the next year or two, see if it does indeed recover,” she said. “Stand back and review the situation professionally… and then start out slowly.”
Eddy criticized the study’s lack of research around forage fish and the surrounding environment that she fears may be subject to erosion due to the harvest.
“I don’t have much confidence in it,” she said of VIU’s study, adding she’s debating whether to attend the public information session tomorrow night. “A moratorium is the only proper thing to do… We need to protect this area.”
Station manager Brian Kingzett, who spearheaded the research, will be one of the keynote speakers at tomorrow’s event alongside UVic PhD student Kylee Pawluck, VIU research chair Dr. Sarah Dudas and UVic M.Sc. student Jessica Holden. Attendees will have the opportunity to listen and ask questions as presenters share their research completed to-date.
For more information on the Beach Wrack Monitoring 2014-15 Final Report visit www.viudeepbay.com/2015/07/28/reporting-out-session-on-mazzaella-japonica-seaweed-research/
The information session will take place tomorrow evening (Aug. 5) from 7-9 p.m. at the VIU Marine Field Station located at 370 Crome Point Road in Deep Bay. For more information contact the Station at 250-740-6611.
PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT NEWS RELEASED ISSUED THE MORNING OF TUESDAY, AUG. 4 (unedited):
For Immediate Release
Aug. 4, 2015
Ministry of Agriculture
Mazzaella japonica harvest licences issued for 2015 season
VICTORIA – The Ministry of Agriculture is offering three Mazzaella japonica
harvest licences and increased quotas for the 2015-16 beach-cast seaweed
harvest season in the Deep Bay and Bowser area. For the first time, two
additional licences are also being issued for a new area fronting the
Qualicum First Nation Reserve.
Three companies – Stormy Shores Seaproducts Inc., Pacific Seaplants Inc.,
and Island Seaweeds Inc. – have held licences in good standing for the past
few seasons. For this year’s season, they will now be able to harvest a
maximum of 500 tonnes each in the Deep Bay and Bowser area, from the
previous limits of 300 tonnes.
The Qualicum First Nation and Island Scallops Ltd are being offered
Mazzaella japonica licences of 250 tonnes each for the area fronting the
Qualicum First Nation Reserve in Qualicum Beach.
The beach-cast seaweed harvest decisions are based on thorough field
observations that include a May 2015 Vancouver Island University (VIU)
research study that determined the harvest did not have a detectable effect
on the amount of Mazzaella japonica deposited on the beaches in the study
area. A three year study conducted by the University of Victoria also
informed the decisions. The Ministry of Agriculture has allocated $50,000 to
VIU to continue their research and monitoring this season, including the new
In addition to the VIU study, provincial fisheries inspectors will continue
to monitor the harvest. The Ministry of Agriculture evaluates licence
conditions over the harvest season, and will consider the results of the
harvest, of continued research information, and any feedback from the
community in adjudicating licence applications in subsequent years. This
helps ensure an environmentally sustainable approach to harvesting, while
providing for local jobs.
Mazzaella japonica was inadvertently introduced to B.C. waters in the early
1900’s. It is rich in carrageenan that is used in many products including
processed foods (ice cream), cosmetics (toothpaste) and pharmaceuticals.
Detailed information on marine plant harvesting:
Vancouver Island University final report entitled “Monitoring of Drift
Seaweed and Harvest, Central Strait of Georgia 2014-15: