Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Vancouver Island Bees Threatened

Vancouver Island has had restrictions of the movement of bees and beekeeping equipment to the Island in place since 1990 to prevent the introduction of pests and diseases to our local honey bee population.

In 1997, an illegal importation of bees and/or equipment to Vancouver Island resulted in the introduction of varroa mite, which until that point had not been present on Vancouver Island. Since that introduction, the mite has spread rapidly and has caused significant damage to commercial and hobby beekeeping ventures on Vancouver Island.

In early May 2010, the BC Government Ministry of Agriculture and Lands, without appropriate consultation with Vancouver Island beekeepers and beekeeping associations, lifted the 20 year quarantine, opening Vancouver Island to introduction of diseases and pests which are present in the rest of BC and Canada, but as yet not present on Vancouver Island.

Please spread the word; I don't think that the general public, especially on Vancouver Island, is even aware of this issue, let alone the potential problems resulting in this lifted quarantine. Support the reinstatement of the quarantine, or at least extension of the original quarantine restrictions until appropriate consultation with key stakeholders has occurred.

My concerns regarding this move by the BC Government include:

  1. Vancouver Island's food security is threatened through significant potential loss of commercial pollinators via the introduction of foreign diseases to our local honey bee population, which, so far has a unique disease profile that has been mostly successfully managed since the introduction of the quarantine 20 years ago.
  2. This move potentially threatens other BC honey producers and commercial pollinators, as this year's (2009) winter die-off experienced on Vancouver Island (90% or more in most areas of southern Vancouver Island) has not been successfully explained: what if there's something that our population introduces to the Mainland as a result of the lifted quarantine?
  3. Beekeeping has become much harder, both commercially and as a hobby, all over the world; why would we add complexity to the issue by introducing further pests and diseases to manage that Vancouver Island apiculturists do not currently have to manage?
  4. I am deeply disturbed that a significant change to the status quo was implemented without communication or coordination with the key stakeholders involved. There was sufficient opportunity to introduce new bloodstock into the honey bee population under the original quarantine restrictions; why did the quarantine get lifted wholesale without any consultation with the appropriate groups involved?
Please visit http://www.cowichanbeekeepers.ca for further information on this issue, including contacts for the Minister responsible, as well as the NDP Agriculture Critic, who has created an online comment/petition form at http://www.islandbees.ca/.

And, just out of interest, May 29, 2010 has been declared "Day of the Honey Bee". Somewhat ironic, in my opinion.

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