Baynes Sound Environmental Marine Baseline Studies

Van Veen Sampling 1

The Centre for Shellfish Research has been awarded a  contract to conduct the field program for the Baynes Sound environmental marine baseline studies for the proposed Raven Underground Coal Project.

We are well aware that this proposed project is highly controversial within the Baynes Sound region with groups and individuals both supporting and opposing the proposed development.  As an independent scientific organization, our role is not to take sides but to provide independent scientific studies when possible that can be used to assist the environmental assessment process, lead to informed decisions and assist with preservation of the marine environment.  We are neither supporting or opposing the project.

We are working with AMEC Scientists conducting the field work establishing research sites, deploying equipment and shellstock, collecting environmental data and samples which are then submitted to other independent laboratories for specialized analysis including AXYS Analytical Services and ALS Environmental.  All information collected will become part of the Provincial and Federal Environmental Assessment processes.  Baseline environmental information will be critical to monitor the health of the Sound should this or any other development happen within the Sound.

Our work includes standard oceanographic and sediment sampling and biomonitoring techniques which will be used to:

  • Characterize water quality, sediment quality, and shellfish tissue quality at three sites: Fanny Bay (a site downstream of the of proposed Project), Tsable River (a site influenced by historical mining activities), and Deep Bay (a reference site of similar character where no historical mining has occurred)
  • Monitor water temperature, salinity, specific conductance, turbidity, dissolved oxygen, metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) every two months (except for PAHs which will be sampled once per year during the period of lowest flow)
  • Characterize sediment quality including grain size, metals, and PAHs twice a year, during the period of lowest flow (summer) and that of highest runoff (winter)
  • Sample Pacific oyster and Manila clam tissue to determine natural background concentrations of  metals and PAHs in local shellfish every two months; Pacific oysters and Manila clams were chosen because they are sessile (immobile), are recreationally and commercially harvested and are filter feeders exposed to water and sediment

Water and sediment samples are being collected following sampling methodologies outlined in the British Columbia Field Sampling Manual (BC Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection). Shellfish monitoring techniques will are based on sampling recommendations outlined in the “Standard Guide for Conducting In-situ Field Bioassays with Marine, Estuarine and Freshwater Bivalves.”

Data sheets and Chain of Custody forms help us keep track of all the various samples.

Van Veen Sampling 3

When collecting samples for metals analysis our stainless steel Van Veen sediment sampler and water quality sampling equipment has to be scrubbed, rinsed with special detergent and then rinsed with distilled water between sites.

Oyster Sampling

Oysters naive to Baynes Sound are deployed and sampled at deployment (control) and after two months or twelve months. Growth and weight change during this time is also noted.  Shellstock along with water and sediment samples get shipped for chemical analyses.

Installing sampling "spider" in SPMD

Semipermeable membrane devices (SPMDs) are a passive sampling device used to monitor trace levels of organic contaminants. When placed in an aquatic environment, SPMDs accumulate hydrophobic (water-“hating”, fat-“loving”) organic compounds, such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and organochlorine pesticides from the surrounding waters. for further info see:

Preparing SPMD's

The SPMD’s are very sensitive, so come in sealed cans and air exposure must be factored in so all engines and sources on contamination must be shut off when deploying. Timing is critical and a control for air exposure is taken (small can).

Semipermeable membrane device deployment

Fully loaded SPMD being placed alongside an oyster raft.

Preparing midwater oyster deployments

Rigging oysters for deepwater deployment.

Deployment Mooring

A mooring bouy in front of creek mouth, 3 separate deepwater stations and three intertidal stations are being maintained at each location.

New Oceanographic Winch

Installing our new (to us) oceanographic winch on the starboard quarter of the RV Chetlo earlier this summer. This custom boom and wire winch hooked into our existing hydraulic system and allows us to conduct Van Veen sediment sampling as well as other techniques which really expands what we can do with the Chetlo. Makes the vessel look a little tougher too! 🙂

This winch was surplus from the BC Ministry of Agriculture when aquaculture responsibility was transferred to DFO. We would really like to thank Comox Valley MLA Don MCrae for facilitating us being able to acquire this winch as well as other surplus aquaculture research equipment. We would not be able to do this work from the Chetlo without it.


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