The guys! Darrian and Emmanuel giving the whaletown shuckers salute.

Cleaning up shellfish growing areas on Cortes and East Redonda Islands

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is cleaning up some of the shellfish growing areas in our area.

Erik Lyon, of Rising Tide Shellfish, believes the clean-ups may be connected to the fact aquaculture licenses in this area will come up for renewal in 2025

DFO has not yet returned Cortes Currents initial query, but Lyon is working on extensive clean-ups on Cortes and East Redonda Islands. 

Image from the 2017 clean-up in Gorge Harbour, Cortes Island courtesy Amanda Glickman

Clean-up in Pendrell Sound

After 60 years, the shellfish industry in Pendrell Sound on East Redonda Island has been closed down and DFO currently has no intention of reopening it.  

A local diver, Dylan Smith, obtained the beach clean-up contract and Christophe Marrie is the DFO biologist involved.

While divers attend to the offshore clean-up, Lyon’s crew collected all the plastics they found on the beach during low tide.

He did not realize how extensive the debris was until they had a 120 foot long self propelled barge filled with garbage.

“You see it scattered all over the place, little bits here and there, but when you see it all piled heaping high on a barge like that – it is pretty hard to deny there is a problem.” said Lyon.

The barge, which was originally intended to hold the debris, returned home full after three days.  

“They were asking me if I had an assessment of how much of the intertidal beach clean-up we’ve done, but it is really impossible to say. It is kind of like the gift that keeps on giving – that nobody wants! The more you look, the more you find. There is literally 60 years of stuff built up,” said Lyon.

He added, “I do not know how far they intend to go with the whole project, but there is definitely an intention to go back and keep working on it.”  

More than a week of cleaning up had passed by the time of this interview. While the divers lived on their boats, Lyon and most of his crew commuted from Cortes by speedboat. The exception was Max Thaysen and Heidi, who brought their sailboat over for three days.

Map showing the shellfish growing areas cited in the text – by Roy L Hales

Clean-up in Gorge Harbour

Lyon had much more encouraging news from Cortes Island, where there has been a clean-up underway in Gorge Harbour ever since the  Bee Islets Growers Coorporation received a letter of non-compliance last year.

“All of us had non-compliance issues with the way we were doing things but we pulled it together really well and I am proud of where we are at now. We’ve continuously been chipping away at maintenance: replacing old lines; getting rid of unused equipment; garbage hauled away; wrapping old foams if we don’t have replacements; replacing old foam billets with new air filled only billets. There has been a lot of work that has happened over the last two years and the place is looking really good now,” he said.   

Bee Islets is on target to be fully compliant by the time their license comes up for renewal, in 2025. 

They have even taken advantage of a DFO grant to help hire divers to clean up the sea floor roughly 100 feet underneath their rafts. 

Lyon says that the transition from old foam billets to roto-molded heavy duty plastic air filled only flotation billets is possible because of a DFO grant that covers 75% of the cost.

“Dave McLean, who has been in the business for about 30 years, is in the process of completely redoing his farm. It is pretty cool to see,” said Lyon.

He added, “so it has been really advantageous for anyone who wants to take advantage of that program and make sure they are in compliance before this next round of license renewals, because it is going to be a problem for people that don’t take advantage of it.”

The clean-up in Pendrell Sound – Erik Lyon photo

 Links of Interest:

This program was funded by a grant from the Community Radio Fund of Canada and the Government of Canada’s Local Journalism Initiative

Top photo credit: The guys! Darrian and Emmanuel giving the whaletown shuckers salute. From Salish to Newfoundland to Alberta, we’re a pretty diverse crew! We have a lot of fun whatever we’re doing – Erik Lyon photo.

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