Plans to restore shellfish harvesting in Coles Bay are picking up. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

Plans to restore shellfish harvesting in Coles Bay are picking up. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

North Saanich seeks to return to shellfish harvesting

Contamination from septic systems a major hurdle facing Pauquachin First Nation

Efforts to restore shellfish harvesting in North Saanich’s Coles Bay are picking up.

Next month, council will hear from Capital Regional District (CRD) staff about the current state of the septic service system near Coles Bay. The meeting marks another step in plans by the Pauquachin First Nation in partnership with others in the region to restore shellfish harvesting at Coles Bay.

The First Nation considers the closure of shellfish harvesting more than 20 years ago an infringement of its Douglas Treaty rights and an impact on its traditional food, according to a letter to the municipality. That letter also points to one of the central problems preventing the restoration of the harvest.

“It is understood that one of the upland bacterial sources that is influencing the closure comes from residential onsite septic systems,” it reads, calling on the municipality to investigate what it can do to regulate said sources of pollution.

According to a North Saanich staff report, one possible solution is the municipality joining the onsite sewage system service the CRD offers.

The initiative to restore shellfish harvesting in the region dates back to at least 2015 following directions by the CRD board with the CRD’s First Nations Relations Division facilitating meetings with an alphabet soup of agencies including local health officials across multiple political jurisdictions and sectors including academia and non-profits. These meetings eventually led to an agreement to focus on one area with Pauquachin First Nation eventually coming forward with a request of to re-focus efforts at Coles Bay.

According to the North Saanich staff report, testing as recently as 2014 showed promise, with testing results sometimes meeting the approved safety thresholds. “Of all the other beaches on the Saanich Peninsula, Coles Bay has a much higher potential of re-opening,” it reads, quoting CRD staff.

RELATED: Pauquachin First Nation calls on North Saanich to help restore shellfish in Coles Bay

According to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Coles Bay is subject to a year-round, permanent ban on bivalve shellfish harvesting. The ban specifically applies to the waters and intertidal foreshore of Coles Bay inside a line drawn from Yarrow Point to a point on the eastern shore of the bay 125 m south of the unnamed creek entering at 8600 Kleewyck Rd., according to the department’s website. The department has stated on its website that eating contaminated shellfish can make people sick, even life threatening, as cooking shellfish does not destroy all biotoxins.

“When an area is officially ‘closed’, it is both illegal and unsafe to harvest shellfish from that area,” reads a warning. “It is your responsibility to know where you are planning to harvest and to find out if the species you wish to harvest is open in that area.”

While efforts are underway, North Saanich staff have also warned against high expectations. “I think it would be a bit of an understatement to say that this a bit of a complicated initiative,” said Eymond Toupin, North Saanich’s director of infrastructure services. “There are lots of level of government that are involved and lots of different folks who are participating to see this happen. It is one of those things that might take some time.”

The Pauquachin First Nation is one of four First Nations on the Saanich Peninsula and a signatory to the Douglas Treaties, a series of agreements signed between 14 First Nations and British colonists named after James Douglas, governor of Vancouver Island, then a British colony. Broadly speaking, the treaties’ terms would see First Nations surrender their land “entirely and forever” in exchange for cash, clothing, or blankets while retaining rights to hunt and fish, rights upheld by courts on multiple occasions.


Do you have a story tip? Email: vnc.editorial@blackpress.ca.

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and like us on Facebook.

wolfgang.depner@peninsulanewsreview.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Johnathan Lee Robichaud pleaded guilty to eight charges including sex-related offences against children and accessing, possessing and making or publishing child pornography. (Courtesy of Saanich Police)
Sentencing date moved for Saanich nanny guilty of child porn charges

Johnathon Lee Robichaud pleaded guilty to eight sex offences against children

(Google Maps)
Sophisticated glass-removal crime returns to downtown Victoria

Several businesses on Fort Street targeted overnight, say police

Forty-two residential properties in Oak Bay were assessed the speculation and vacancy tax in 2019 for a total of $693,000. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
74 Oak Bay property owners paid $693,000 in spec tax

42 properties were assessed with the SVT in 2019

(Black Press Media file photo)
Saanich repeals, reschedules two public hearings for consideration of new information

Move to hold public hearings for second time ‘very rare,’ mayor says

Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the press theatre at the B.C. legislature for an update on COVID-19, Jan. 7, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 spread steady with 509 new cases Friday

Hospitalized and critical care cases decline, nine deaths

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s top doctor says to avoid non-essential travel as B.C. explores legal options

Premier John Horgan says he is seeking legal advice on whether it can limit interprovincial travel

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Lilly and Poppy, two cats owned by Kalmar Cat Hotel ownder Donna Goodenough, both have cerebellAr hypoplasia, a genetic neurological condition that affects their ability to control their muscles and bones. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror
VIDEO: Wobbly Cats a riot of flailing legs and paws but bundles of love and joy to their owner

Woman urges others to not fear adopting cats with disabilities

Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the crowd during the march on Washington, D.C., in August of 1963. Courtesy photo
Government reinforces importance of anti-racism act on Black Shirt Day

B.C. Ministers say education “a powerful tool” in the fight for equity and equality

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials say country will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon shared a handwritten note his son received on Jan. 13, 2021. (Ravi Kahlon/Twitter)
Proud dad moment: B.C. minister’s son, 10, receives handwritten note for act of kindness

North Delta MLA took to Twitter to share a letter his son received from a new kid at school

Dr. Shannon Waters, the medical health officer for the Cowichan Valley Region, is reminding people to stay the course with COVID-19 measures. (File photo)
‘Stay the course’ with COVID measures, Island Health reminds

Limit social activity, wash hands, wear a mask, and isolate if you feel sick

Cowichan Tribes members line up at a drive-up clinic on Wednesday, Jan. 13 to receive the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in the region. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
BCAFN condems racism against Cowichan Tribes after COVID-19 outbreak

“Any one of us could do everything right and still catch the virus”: Regional Chief Terry Teegee.

Most Read