British Columbia

Tsawout First Nation welcomes help to restore traditional shellfish harvest

The Tsawout First Nation is welcoming a push to clean up the shore along the Saanich Peninsula where contamination has ruined the traditional shellfish harvest.

Long-standing problem with contamination prevents people from eating clams

Tsawout elder Earl Claxton Jr. remembers digging for clams on this beach in the community as a child. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

The Tsawout First Nation is welcoming a push to clean up the shore along the Saanich Peninsula north of Victoria where contamination has ruined the traditional shellfish harvest.

"I can remember when I was younger, all along this here was a real good place to dig clams," said elder Earl Claxton Jr, standing on the beach front earlier this week.

"No matter how poor you were, you could still come down and dig clams and get crabs and feast like a king."

But since then a number of factors have made the shellfish along the Saanich Peninsula inedible, including runoff, geese droppings, and a regional sewage treatment plant placed in the community years ago, said Claxton.

The treatment plant is now operated by the Tsawout First Nation and Claxton said it is looking to improve what enters the ocean. Sewage treatment for other communities in the region is now provided at a different facility.

He is also encouraged that the Capital Regional District may get involved in remediation, noting a proposal will go before the Capital Regional District board next month that would bring together First Nations and other levels of government to address the issue.

"It's the sort of past damage that has been done that has interrupted [the harvest]," said Central Saanich Mayor Ryan Windsor, one of the champions of the proposal.

"It's important that we work together to resolve those issues, to work together towards reconciliation."