Oyster Bags

Some residents near Orwell Bay were disappointed in answers from federal candidates during the Environmental debate at Pooles Corner last Thursday evening.

On the subject of floating oyster cages in PEI bays and estuaries, Jan Matejcek, a member of the China Point/ Earnscliffe Citizen’s Alliance, said their concerns are not being addressed.

Floating oyster cages, a method of growing oysters at the surface of the water, is becoming an increasingly popular practice around the world. The motion of the waves help shape the deep cup of the oysters and the growing bags provide shelter from predators. Bags allow for adequate water flow, giving oysters nutrients required to grow.

In the public question portion of the debate, attended by more than 50 people, Mr Matejcek’s question for candidates, Lawrence MacAulay, Lynne Thiele and Glen Beaton was what action they would take to address the alarming amount of plastic being used in surface aquaculture.

Incumbent Liberal Lawrence MacAulay said he wasn’t aware of the issue but would look into it.

Green Party candidate Glen Beaton and NDP candidate Lynne Thiele agreed the issue should be addressed.

Mr Matejcek, who has been looking to government for answers for some time said nothing he heard at the debate gave him any indication the issue was being taken seriously.

According to Mr Matejcek, there are already floating oyster cages in several PEI locations and the group is fearful there isn’t enough attention to the effects they may create.

“When you read the science it says oyster farming on the surface kills eel grass, creates mud on the bottom, slows down the water flow and the water gets warmer and everything dies in the bay,” he said.

Orwell Bay is a stop-over destination for migratory birds and the fear is there will be nothing for them if floating oyster cages fill the bay.

“The bottom line is nothing is happening,” Mr Matejcek said, noting long-term effects must be addressed.

Another question from the floor asked candidates what they would do to retrain workers in light of the switch to green energy that will come with climate change.

“There is going to be a rapid change in technology investment as green energy comes into play,” Mr Beaton said.

The Green Party platform allows for a break in education costs to train workers for the new reality, he added.

Mr MacAulay pointed to a program already in existence at Veterans Affairs Canada.

“We have a program with up to $8,200 for people in the military coming out in order to retrain for a job,” he said.

Ms Thiele said the change is a positive one and the NDP plans to retrain for the estimated 300,000 new jobs coming into play when the switch is made from fossil fuels to green energy.

All three candidates said they were in full support of PEI’s wind energy program in response to another question from the audience.

Mr Beaton did stipulate, however, the industry has to remain cognizant of where windmills are placed in response to people’s concerns.

In addition to questions from the floor the three candidates offered their views on 12 pre-ordained questions from the 24 environmental organizations that arranged the event.

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