For Immediate Release: May 19, 2004
VICTORIA – The development of a unique and sensitive ecosystem and the disinterring of First Nations ancestral remains are at the centre of a challenge mounted against an aquaculture facility at Walker Hook on Saltspring Island. An eleven-day hearing into the matter by an Environmental Appeal Board panel concluded today in Victoria.
Local residents, First Nations elders and fishery organizations are challenging Sablefin Hatcheries’ plan to operate a sablefish aquaculture hatchery and inject effluent into the nearby sand tombolo. The province has issued a permit and several bodies have been unearthed.
“This is an extremely special place, identified by the government’s own Sensitive Ecosystem Inventory as comprising three rare ecosystem types,” said Donna Martinof Saltspring Residents for Responsible Land Use. “The salt marsh wetland, sparsely vegetated ecosystem and coastal bluff/woodland complex make up less than 2% of the sensitive ecosystems in the entire Gulf Islands.”
“Putting an industrial fish farm hatchery on this sensitive land and discharging its waste into the marine environment is an ecological abomination,” said Georgia Strait Alliance’s Peter Ronald, “but using a fish farm as an excuse to disturb a native burial ground is simply obscene.”
The Penelakut First Nation is seeking to protect their burial site, an area of vital historic and cultural significance.
“This area has long been identified as needing protection and is an ideal candidate for the Southern Strait of Georgia National Marine Conservation Area, which will be established in the coming years,” said Ronald. “We must not lose this significant cultural site nor its sensitive environmental setting.”
The panel’s decision is expected sometime this summer or fall.