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LTC eyes fish farm

Gulf Islands Driftwood, Thursday, January 23, 2003

By Gail Sjuberg

The internationally controversial topic of aquaculture will surface at the Lions Hall this Saturday afternoon when the Salt Spring Local Trust Committee (LTC) considers a proposed sablefish hatchery on Walker Hook agricultural property. Trust planner John Gauld said the LTC is a referral agency for both a subdivision application made to the Ministry of Transportation and a Land Reserve Commission proposal that would facilitate a fish hatchery for sablefish - also known as black cod.

The plan sees a long-term lease of the land from Walker Hook property owner Henry Caldwell to Parksville-based Gidon Minkoff and Sablefin Hatcheries Inc., which is spearheading the project. Salt Spring's Paul Simpson, of Island Sea Farms Ltd., said Minkoff is known internationally for his work and that agencies such as the Vancouver Aquarium and National Research Council were connected to the plan. Gauld said the on-land black cod hatchery proposed for Caldwell's Agricultural Land Reserve property is defined by the provincial government as an agricultural use.

Barb Wright, public affairs officer with the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF), said a licence to operate the hatchery was granted by MAFF to Sablefin Hatcheries Inc. last June. Wright noted that a waste management permit from the Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection is also needed. Like all fish farm-related enterprises these days, the project must also deal with public relations hurdles. Chris Acheson, who is both president of the Canadian Sablefish Association (CSA) and a Salt Spring resident, will be addressing the LTC about the hatchery on Saturday. He thinks Salt Spring Islanders should consider if they want their island known as the home of a major experimental fish hatchery. His association feels the millions of fish that will be raised from the hatchery stock could lead to eventual elimination of the wild sablefish stock in the North Pacific. "The whole issue of aquaculture is not being handled properly in B.C.," he said Monday. "You can't have two of the same stock in the same environment. The one that is doctored is going to prevail over the one that is not doctored."

Acheson said the CSA wants appropriate studies done on the effects of farming sablefish before it proceeds in any location and feels operations should be confined to land. In addition to the CSA's concerns, the Seattle-based Fishing Vessel Owners' Association Incorporated, has also expressed opposition to the proposed Salt Spring hatchery via a letter sent last week to the Islands Trust. "Our organization is deeply concerned about the growing problems aquaculture is creating for established fishing industries and communities in both countries. We oppose the establishment of a sablefish hatchery on Salt Spring Island and hope that the Islands Trust will take every precaution to ensure that the wild sablefish resource and traditional commercial fisheries are not threatened." Saturday's LTC business meeting starts at 1 p.m., beginning with an open town hall session where members of the public can speak with trustees and staff about any issue of concern.

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