The first open house on Target Marine Hatcheries’ plan to introduce aquaponics and trout roe processing to their operations caused some upset from a handful of people gathered at the Seaside Centre Jan. 13.
The crowd of about a dozen heard hatchery manager Justin Henry talk about the plan Monday night, which will require a text amendment to the zoning bylaw and official community plan (OCP) amendment.
The zoning text amendment would allow other fish to be processed on site, in addition to sturgeon and the OCP amendment would allow “fish processing and the commercial growing of plants” in the .35 hectare portion of hatchery lands currently used for sturgeon.
At the open house Henry explained aquaponics is a “food production system that combines land-based aquaculture with hydroponics in a symbiotic environment,” and he showed examples of plants growing on top of various water sources.
He said the introduction of plants to the water recirculation and filtering system currently used at Target could allow them to reuse 99.9 per cent of the water.
“Currently we can reuse 99 per cent,” he noted.
Target also plans to sell the plants grown through aquaponics to create a new revenue stream.
When questioned he was unsure what form the aquaponics would take on site or what plants would be grown.
“We’re good at growing fish, but commercially we have no idea how to grow plants, so we’re in discussions with some experts in that field to get some input on what our water quality parameters are and what plants will match to move,” Henry said.
Some were concerned about possible lighting and noise problems if greenhouses ended up being used, but Henry could offer no input, saying he was unsure what would unfold.
“We need to know stuff like that because being your neighbours out there it’s going to affect everybody, so that’s kind of something that will be important to know,” one man said.
Others wanted information about things like sewage processing on site, waste disposal and permits for holding tanks, but Henry said those requests had nothing to do with the proposal he was presenting.
The issue came to Sechelt council on Jan. 15 where councillors gave Target’s proposal first reading and referred it to a public hearing after debating the timing of the request.
Some noted it wasn’t very long ago that the hatchery was granted a special zoning to harvest sturgeon for caviar on site, after much public upset and division on the topic.
“I’m a little disappointed that in such a short time we’ve had this come in front of us again for more changes,” Coun. Alice Lutes said.
“I thought that we might be able to exist in a peaceful manner for a little while and sort out the neighbourhood but I will vote in favour of the recommendation, I just need Target Marine to know that I am disappointed.”
Coun. Mike Shanks echoed the sentiment saying he looked forward to the outcome of the public hearing and seeing what the wider community thought about the change.
“I’d just like to comment that I’m not disappointed in the least,” Coun. Chris Moore said.
“Here we are talking about a business intending to expand their boundaries, employ more people, increase our GED on the Coast and we aren’t happy. I mean what’s wrong with that?”
The public will have their say on Target’s proposal in the coming weeks, once a public hearing is scheduled on the subject.