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Senate panel collects data on aquaculture

A committee of Canadian senators was in Nanaimo Wednesday as part of a fact-finding mission related to aquaculture regulation.

The Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans received feedback from a number of stakeholders in aquaculture – the harvesting of fish or aquatic plants for human use – and eelgrass was a topic of discussion at one of the panels.

Island Trust recently released the results of a two-year eelgrass mapping project as part of a marine habit monitoring and conservation effort. While the eelgrass count was high in the Gabriola Islands area, specialists said people still had to be mindful of the impact of human activity on the habitat.

Sen. Fabian Manning, committee chairman, said concerns about eelgrass areas were raised by the Association for Responsible Shellfish Farming.

“They raised the concern with us about the areas of eelgrass here that could be potentially damaged by aquaculture, by the industry they’re developing here in the area,” Manning said.

The committee was also in areas such as Tofino and Campbell River and Manning said the biggest concern from participants, not just in Nanaimo, was the lack of an aquaculture act in Canada, which he said was “pretty well” the only country in the world producing seafood at a large rate without an act.

“There are 90 different pieces of legislation for a federal, provincial and territorial point of view overseeing aquaculture,” Manning said. “There are 17 federal departments and agencies that have something to do with aquaculture, so it’s very difficult for the industry to find a way through that maze as they try to develop new areas and new opportunities.”

He said the committee hopes to present a report with a list of recommendations to the senate in June 2015.

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