Kent MacLean, a councillor with the North Shore Community Council, shows the area where the 92-acre oyster leases are located in Covehead Bay. MacLean said council is looking to development a Covehead Bay stewardship plan to help address growing concerns from its residents regarding the oyster leases and the future of this recreational bay.
©Maureen Coulter/The Guardian
COVEHEAD, P.E.I. - Jeff Lawley, a longtime summer resident in Stanhope, enjoys spending his days doing recreational activities on Covehead Bay.
“I’m the guy you see on the yellow sailboat every weekend on the Covehead Bay. When there is not enough wind, I’m the guy with his dog on his standup paddleboard. On top of all of that, I can be seen in a powerboat from time to time.”
And when Lawley isn’t on the water, he is sitting back and appreciating the “beautiful and majestic” vistas of Covehead Bay, he told the crowd of approximately 130 people at North Shore Community Centre Thursday, most of whom were there to share his concerns about the bay’s future.
Lawley feels the 92-acre oyster leases on the bay compromise access since they is located on what he describes as the best and deepest water.
He also notes a “serious deterioration” in the bay water quality and depth since the inception of the aquaculture farm in 1994.
“I would be highly opposed to any further expansion of the aquaculture farm as it would render the bay useless for recreational purposes.”
Many residents echoed Lawley’s sentiments during a public meeting, hosted by the North Shore Community Council, to discuss the development of a Covehead Bay stewardship plan in an effort to ensure a healthy bay for future generations.
Coun. Kent MacLean said this plan would seek to address aquaculture fishing, commercial/recreational fishing, recreational boating and the rights of all residents, visitors and stakeholders that use the bay to ensure environmental and socio-economic sustainability.
“Our fear is that there is no controlled plan by DFO (Department of Fisheries and Oceans),” said MacLean in an interview with The Guardian. “We would like to have DFO participate and put a responsible plan in place for that asset.”
So far, three meetings have been held between the Community of North Shore and the DFO.
“They’ve listened to us, but I’m not sure they heard us, and we are appealing to DFO to participate with the municipality in a stewardship plan for Covehead Bay.”
MacLean said concerns from residents began in the fall of 2016 when black oyster cages began appearing in Covehead Bay.
The municipality learned from the DFO that it had received an application to convert a portion of the 92-acre mussel leases to “off-bottom” oyster leases.
“Their mandate is to grow the aquaculture economy on the bays,” said MacLean. “Their lens is on the bays, it’s not out to municipalities around the bays, but what happens in the bay affects the municipality.”
MacLean said they are concerned about the environmental impact since there are many noticeable negative changes already in the bay, including the loss of rock crab as a species, the growth of eelgrass, the introduction and growth of invasive species, growth of sea lettuce and frequent and severe anoxic events.
MacLean said residents are concerned at the lack of a long-term management or sustainability plan for aquaculture leases on Covehead Bay.
“Stanhope, Covehead and West Covehead residents, which make up the municipality of North Shore, feel that Covehead Bay is a jewel.”
The information gathered at the public meeting will be presented at the next North Shore Community Council meeting to discuss the possible formation of this Covehead Bay stewardship plan.
Malpeque MP Wayne Easter and Premier Wade MacLauchlan also attended the meeting and said they both support the development of this plan.
FACT BOX 1:
Just the facts
- The municipality of North Shore is the second fastest growing community on P.E.I.
- The last environmental assessment of Covehead Bay was conducted in 2001.
- An agreement was signed in 1928 between the Dominion of Canada and P.E.I. where it was agreed that the federal government would be responsible for aquaculture leasing on P.E.I. This agreement was reaffirmed in 1987.
- The owners of the existing aquaculture leases on Covehead Bay signed a new 25-year lease with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
- P.E.I. is the only province that does not manage/control its coastal waterways.
FACT BOX 2:
- The Community of North Shore has received more than 120 letters and emails from its residents regarding concerns of Covehead Bay.
- Those concerns include environmental impact, reduced recreational boating, no long-term management plan for aquaculture leases, restricted recreational and commercial fishing, potential negative impact on tourism market and decrease in property values.