Sustainability

Shellfish farming is, by definition, green and sustainable. The shellfish we farm are filter feeders that get their required nutrients by drawing sea water through their gills. Clam, mussel, oyster and scallop farmers do not feed their grow-out stock. They rely on natural food that exists in the environment.

We, as an industry, have a direct interest in a clean environment. Clams, mussels, oysters and scallops require a clean environment to prosper. They cannot tolerate the discharge of sewage or other toxins and are, in many ways, the canary in the coal mine that warns of poor environmental conditions. The health of our animals aids in monitoring water for pollution control and results in an increased awareness of water quality in coastal waters.

Shellfish farming is endorsed by environmental groups, including EcoFish, Audubon Society and Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch.

If you find industry-related equipment on beaches, please call the BCSGA office to arrange for pickup.

Members of the shellfish farming industry aim to be responsible environmental citizens, practice sustainable farming methods and remain mindful of the fact that all cultivation of land or water has some effect on the natural environment.

Environmental Engineers

Protecting Water Quality

Shellfish farmers depend on clean, nutrient-rich water for their livelihood. Shellfish feed only on organisms that occur naturally in our coastal waters; if this food source is depleted or affected by pollution, the farmers are the first to notice.

Local residents can find comfort in knowing that shellfish farmers monitor the quality of the water year round, using methods that range from simple observation to sophisticated water quality testing and laboratory analysis.

Fighting Pollution

The presence of large concentrations of oysters and other filter-feeding shellfish has a very beneficial ecological effect that can mitigate some damage done to coastal areas by upland activities.

Oysters are saving Chesapeake Bay (Virginia). Much like Baynes Sound and Cortes Island, here in British Columbia, the waters of Chesapeake Bay have a long history of being home to high densities of oysters. Environmental scientists attributed the failing health of Chesapeake Bay throughout the 20th century to a decline in the oyster population. In their heyday, oysters could filter and clean all the water in Chesapeake Bay in three to five days. State and local governments, environmentalists and shellfish farmers pledged to increase the overall oyster population in Chesapeake Bay tenfold to Save the Bay.

Providing Bird and Fish Habitat

We all know that oysters filter potentially damaging amounts of algae and sediments from the water. Recent scientific studies have shown that oyster farming has other ecological benefits too.

The recycling effect of filter feeding, which returns valuable sediments to the bottom, has been shown to increase the productivity of sea grass beds – an important habitat for juvenile fish. Farmed shellfish and their associated plant life provide homes and protection for a variety of invertebrate and fish communities.

Off-bottom longlines and rafts provide welcome habitat for creatures that, in turn, provide an important food source for fish and birds

Cleaning Up The Industry

We don’t know who is allowing debris from their shellfish operations to enter the marine environment, but until those operators are brought into compliance it is our responsibility to cleanup the industry. The most recent cleanup, on the 30th of March, pulled a truck load of aquaculture and fishing debris off a 3.7 km stretch of the South Western shore of Denman Island.

Thank you to Gordy McLellan at Mac’s Osyters for volunteering his time to cleanup the debris of other farmers for the industry we all love.

Along with continued cleanups, we have developed a new environmental code of practice and we are encouraging all shellfish growers in BC to develop and commit to a debris management plan. Our goal is to help farmers develop and implement a culture of net-negative debris. This industry has came a long way and, when diligently operated, it is one of the most sustainable forms of food production.

Partnerships

The Ocean Legacy Foundation, a marine plastics removal non-profit organization based in British Columbia, is making a strong impact on the local marine environment. The Foundation’s free-to-use marine debris recycling depots across the province facilitate the proper disposal and recycling of marine debris, preventing harmful plastics from polluting our oceans and safeguarding the health of marine ecosystem, and maintaining the high safety standards of BC’s shellfish industry.
Emerald Sea Protection Society is a non-profit organization protecting BC marine ecosystems from the effects of abandoned, lost and discarded fishing gear. Funded in part by the federal Ghost Gear Fund, Emerald Sea Protection works to recover ‘ghost nets’ that independently snare and kill marine life beneath the subsurface, and to remove other harmful plastic fishing debris from the water.
Ocean Wise is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to empower communities to protect and restore the world’s oceans by tackling shoreline and microfibre plastic pollution, restoring coastal kelp forests, conducting humpback whale sightings, and inspiring Canadian youth to conduct shoreline cleanups and other field work.