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Minkoff reveals more hatchery details

Gulf Islands Driftwood, Wednesday, February 26, 2003

By Gail Sjuberg

While initially reticent to discuss plans for Sablefin Hatcheries Ltd.'s in-the-works Walker Hook hatchery and research facility, scientist Gidon Minkoff ended up answering numerous questions from another standing-room-only crowd at Lions Hall Friday afternoon. Islanders and members of the Advisory Planning Commission (APC) attending the APC meeting reeled off questions for Minkoff, with most revolving around their concerns that the area's environment would be harmed by hatchery operation.

While APC members still felt they had insufficient information to support a 20-year lease of eight hectares (20 acres) of Henry Caldwell's land, and no written or verbal presentation was made by the company, the APC session served to extract more details from Minkoff.

Fish fecal waste will be dealt with through a dry filter and sludge removal system and either used for compost for landscaping vegetation on the site, or taken to a landfill, he said. Fatalities would also be removed and frozen, and then composted or landfilled. Antibiotics and medicines would not be used, he said. Plankton created on site would provide initial food, followed by a "formula diet" of 45 per cent protein, and highly concentrated fatty acids from algae. Minkoff said all tanks would be located inside one 130 X 75-foot building. In addition, lit greenhouses to cultivate plankton would be on site. Responding to concerns about the greenhouses emitting annoying light in the neighbourhood, Minkoff said inside shades are used at night.

Confusion abounded around the topic of the company's application for a waste management permit from the Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection (MWLAP). APC member John Sprague said his discussions with ministry personnel indicated such a permit was not in place, while Minkoff said he had a letter "confirming our application and that it is granted." Alex Dabrowski, communications officer with MWLAP, also told the Driftwood last week the permit had not been applied for, although discussions between staff and applicant had occurred.

Minkoff clarified that the first stage of the process involved monitoring by MWLAP for 15 months of hatchery operation, including effluent monitoring, before a permit is issued. "Basically we will be undergoing scrutiny by [MWLAP] for a long period of time," he said. Afterwards, MWLAP would do a quarterly analysis of water quality, he said, while he would do daily samples. Trust regional planning manager John Gauld confirmed that if anyone had environmental concerns about hatchery operation, MWLAP would deal with them. The final outflow product, said Minkoff, would be "sea water with a certain amount of dissolved organics."

While clearly on the defensive Friday, at the LTC meeting Saturday Minkoff switched to a more proactive position, urging people to not be "distracted" by the arguments for or against fish farming and to consider the company's needs for a clean environment. "We are not in any way trying to destroy any part of the coast or any part of this environment," he said, noting that if the area becomes polluted, "it would hurt our own ability to produce fish there."

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