Managing seaweed

Good resource management science starts with a review, where experiences from elsewhere are examined and impact forecasts are made.

An article and letter recently published in The NEWS have inferred that the work that my co-authors and I undertook in preparing Seaweed Harvesting on the East Coast of Vancouver Island, B.C.: A Biological Review is just a review, implying there is little substance to our conclusions and recommendations.

Your readers should know that good resource management science starts with this type of review, whereby experiences from elsewhere are examined and forecasting is made of the possible impacts of this activity here. This is what we have done in our investigation.

The reason we felt we had to do this work was because the seaweed harvesting agency (provincial Ministry of Agriculture) had not done so before issuing licenses, and therefore had no scientific basis for setting harvesting conditions for this industry. This is not the way we should be managing an extractive industry, particularly one located in an area where ecological impacts could be considerable.

There have been many comments made on this new industry, some of them seemingly without the benefit of ecological knowledge and thereby risking a broader public misunderstanding of key issues.

Regarding the scientific credibility of our report, my co-authors are leading experts in beach ecology and forage fish ecology — key issues in understanding the impacts from this extractive industry.

Our examination of the experience elsewhere, the high values of our local beaches and the significant potential impacts suggested that we should proceed cautiously with this new industry, and we have therefore recommended a moratorium be placed on this industry until a better understanding has been reached on ecological impacts.

This work has yet to be done, and the current investigation being undertaken by VIU (highlighted in the Jan. 15 edition of The NEWS), while addressing some important issues, will not fulfill all the requirements of a formal impact assessment.

We repeat our suggestion of a moratorium until we can understand the full nature of impacts and are therefore in a position to make informed, science-based decisions on this industry.

Ross PetersonNanoose Bay

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