Ranching the seas

Manatee Holdings president Eric Gant believes that aquaculture and a transition from a mindset of hunting to ranching is one way we can improve and protect the ocean’s ecology. - Photo submitted
Manatee Holdings president Eric Gant believes that aquaculture and a transition from a mindset of hunting to ranching is one way we can improve and protect the ocean’s ecology.
— image credit: Photo submitted

The recent addition of several buildings and related hatchery infrastructure at Manatee Holdings’ Gartley Point Aquaculture Hatchery in Royston will help develop and implement an adaptive management plan.

The plan is in development in consultation with the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), the provincial government, as well as marine researchers.

According to Manatee Holdings company president Eric Gant, this season’s scallop and geoduck clam brood stock have been brought in and the two species have been successfully spawned. Once the animals reach sufficient size, they will be planted in regulated undersea land tenures around Savory, Texada, Cortes, and Marina islands.  The company has employed this same aquaculture management practice for more than 15 years.

While there are future plans to add other indigenous ocean species to the hatchery program — including sea urchins, cockles, sea cucumbers and horse clams — this expansion of the program is still subject to approval. Once underway, it will form part of an extensive marine animal research program in cooperation with UBC and Vancouver Island University.

“Over the past 25 years, Manatee Holdings has helped to successfully develop the geoduck aquaculture industry in B.C.,” explains Gant. “Our efforts have been instrumental in offsetting the detrimental impact that the local geoduck clam fishery is having on the natural stocks.

“The inherent problems with fisheries around the world are well-known, and can be successfully offset with responsible aquaculture practices. What we are doing is vital to the future health of our coastal waters.

“Mindfully planting healthy geoduck clam seed into the substrate of the sub-tidal areas along our shorelines ensures a genetically viable population, creates an organic heat sink that helps to offset the affects of global warming, and helps to offset pollution resulting from human activities.”

Gant says he was initially motivated to create his system of food production because of what he witnessed in his hometown farming district, where grain farmers and cattle ranchers had to destroy the natural ecology of the forest to intensively cultivate domestic animals and plants. This is getting worse, he says, as free-range cattle ranching (for example) switches to intensive feedlot systems. Manatee’s Adaptive Management Program, on the other hand, fits into the surrounding natural ecology of the ocean.

“Manatee Holdings has been lobbying with Ottawa for over 18 months, to get the DFO policy-makers to understand that what we are doing is a morally and mentally mature transition from hunting to ranching the sea,” says Gant.

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