MPs tour Baynes Sound, micro plastic trouble spot

Gord Johns in the News

Source: CHEK News

Baynes Sound and the Comox Estuary is said to be the most important marine ecosystem in the Strait of Georgia and while they were not visible Thursday, the area is home to 35% of the herring spawn.

However, a local conservation group says it's also become a "sacrifice zone" to the needs and demands of industrial aquaculture.

"We see the degradation of this essential ecosystem happening exponentially" Barb Mills of the Association for Denman Island Marine Stewards told CHEK News.

The Association organized the tour for local politicians hoping the message about the dangers of industry and micro plastics gets back to Ottawa and Victoria.

"This is a hotspot for micro plastics on the pacific coast and micro plastics carry toxins, they are ingested by the food chain and they are one of the greatest threats that the ocean is facing" added Mills.

Micro plastics are plastic particles in the environment generally smaller than a millimetre and easily ingested.

In Baynes Sound one source is believed to be shellfish farms that thrive there, but environmentalists and politicians are not blaming aquaculture.

"We need to find that balance of protecting our environment and growing our economy. To do that we've got to make sure that we've got good government intervention when issues come up and right now we haven't seen that, we've seen government missing in action" said Gord Johns, Courtenay-Alberni NDP MP.

"So looking at different management techniques and I think that's what we've got to do to find solutions that protect incredible areas like this" added Finn Donnolly, NDP Fisheries critic and MP for Port-Moody-Coquitlam.

A research scientist from the Vancouver Aquarium was also on the tour.

Dr. Juan Jose Alava says the problem of micro plastics and the larger ocean pollution problem can be solved.

"To try to solve the problem we need good science and to provide science-oriented solutions. With outrage and communication and education, I think things can happen" said Alava.

But something getting in the way is that the ocean and in particular this area of Baynes Sound is multi-jurisdictional.

"All levels have to work together with the Islands Trust to make sure we find the balance necessary to make sure our future generations get all the benefits we have now from this incredible ecosystem" said Alberni-Pacific Rim MLA Scott Fraser.