‘It basically cooked the oysters’: Baynes Sound shellfish industry reeling after heat wave

'It basically cooked the oysters': Baynes Sound shellfish industry reeling after heat wave
WatchLow tides at the hottest time of the day during last week's heat wave left vulnerable shellfish exposed to record heat and killed thousands. Dean Stoltz reports.

The beaches around Baynes Sound are yielding more proof of how deadly the recent record heat wave was in B.C.

The exact numbers aren’t known but tens of thousands of oysters and other shellfish are now dead or still dying after literally baking in their shells on the beach as temperatures soared into the mid and upper 30s.

“It basically cooked the oysters, clams and mussels,” said Joe Tarnowski, owner of Baynes Sound Oysters. “Most of the mussels around here are all gone. My clams were hit hard and you can see the sand dollars and stuff are all dead everywhere.”

Extremely low tides at the hottest time of the day for about five days in a row left the shellfish to sizzle in the hot sun and when the tide came in the water was too warm to provide relief.

“I’ve probably lost between 30 and 40 per cent of my oysters and my clams are a little higher. They really didn’t like the heat,” said Tarnowski who has tenures along the shores of Denman Island and Vancouver Island in Baynes Sound.

His father started Baynes Sound Oysters 65 years ago and that part of the B.C. coast has been known for its cool crisp water and ideal growing conditions for shellfish.

However, warming waters during the last 10 years have increased the risk of bacteria in the oysters and now the recent blast of heat could be the final straw.

“We knew the heat might have been bad but we weren’t expecting to see what we saw and what we are seeing,” said Dale Warren, who picks oysters for Baynes Sound Oysters.

There is also an unmistakable stench on the beach as dead sea life rots and looks like an oil slick in the sand.

“It’s never smelled like this, never smelled like this,” added Warren.

Tarnowski is now calling for federal help in the way of bailouts and money for new seed growers on the B.C. coast.

Dean StoltzDean Stoltz

Recent Stories

Send us your news tips and videos!