Fish plant problem likely solved-temporarily

  • Feb. 27, 2009 5:00 a.m.

The four fish plants on the islands are likely going to be able to operate into May, after Environment Canada gives them an extension allowing them to dump fish waste into the ocean. As we went to press Tuesday, details of the extension were unclear. Al Frick, manager of CBI Fisheries in Masset, said he had heard the extension would be until May 31, but Brock Bailey of Environment Canada in Prince George told us “some kind of an extension is coming” but details were still being worked out. Mr. Bailey said he was under the impression details were to be made public by mid-week. Environment Canada told the fish plants last November they could no longer dump fish waste into the ocean, as it is illegal under the Fisheries Act, and that they would have to abide by the act this season. That left the four plants -which at peak employ about 300 islanders – scrambling for alternate ways to dispose of the offal. In Ottawa, MP Nathan Cullen is continuing to press for a solution. He called the extension a move in the right direction, but “it is not nearly enough,” he said. Mr. Cullen said an extension to May isn’t good enough, as there’s no way to come up with a permanent solution by then. “As far as I’m concerned, the struggle is still on. We are going to have to keep fighting for fairness,” he said. Mr. Cullen said he plans to meet with the Minister of the Environment this week and give her one more opportunity to take the matter seriously. He said he wants to give the issue a sense of urgency, and to tell the minister that she is “courting disaster”. He also said that Environment Canada has “been jerking us around.”. “We are just asking for some consistency,” Mr. Cullen said. “Folks from the islands are willing to accept this law. They just can’t do it fast,” he said.Mr. Cullen toured the islands last week and met with fish plant managers. Al Frick, manager of CB Island Fisheries in Masset said the meeting was “really good. He’s very positive, very upbeat, quite personable, He’s quite interested in helping us and quite sincere in helping us”.But at Omega Packing, manager Rob St. Louis wasn’t quite so positive. The extension “doesn’t really do us any good,” he said, “you can’t really run a plant when you can only go to May 31, when you have crab season coming up.”