A new organization is demanding that British Columbia introduce provincial laws to regulate coastal shellfish farming - which it calls an out of control "Wild West" industry.
The Association for Responsible Shellfish Farming says shellfish farming - including oysters, mussels, scallops and clams - is one of B.C.'s most unregulated industries despite its impact on the environment, health and rights of coastal residents.
"No other industry in British Columbia has almost no limits on where it is located, how it operates or who it negatively affects - and that is neither sustainable nor acceptable," said Brian Hayden, Association spokesperson. "Why does the province allow a 'Wild West' industry to operate without regulations to protect the public from the industrial noise, disruption and smells?"
"We are not opposed to shellfish aquaculture in the right places but 10-acre, deep-water industrial raft sites are planned along residential shorelines with no regulations to protect the other needs of our communities - including the environment, health, tourism and the residents," Hayden said.
"There are other socially acceptable and environmentally sustainable locations for this evolving industry."
The Association has developed principles for a voluntary Code of Responsible Shellfish Aquaculture Practices but is pushing the provincial government to introduce legislation that would regulate the industry.
Hayden said that at Baynes Sound on Denman Island an estimated 90% of beaches are covered with aquaculture operations, limiting public access, producing industrial noise and leaving garbage and debris behind.
"In May of this year Association members collected three tons of shellfish farming debris on Baynes Sound beaches - how can shellfish operations leave garbage all over public beaches and in front of residential properties without any penalties?" Hayden asked.
The Association is also concerned about lack of monitoring of cadmium levels in B.C. shellfish. Although cadmium is a heavy metal, no routine testing is conducted on shellfish produced in the province, Hayden said.
The Association will present a brief to the Legislature's Special Committee on Sustainable Aquaculture in Vancouver on Wednesday October 18.