Neighbours Picket Farms Over Cannon Blasts

Fraser Valley residents are picketing neighbouring blueberry farms in a desperate effort to convince farmers to curtail the use of cannons, whose frequent gunshot-like blasts stop birds from eating crops. "I came here for peace and quiet. And for 15 years it was like that," said Iver Lee, one of the founding members of Ban the Cannons, a group formed in June.

Lee said the propane cannons - which are set up on rotating tripods and are timed to go off every three or four minutes - wake him up at dawn "with a loud thud," and keep firing until evening. "We live in a modern environmentally sensitive society now. We feel that farming should be socially responsible," said Lee, who has lived in Abbotsford for twenty years.

However, Abbotsford blueberry farmer Rajjinder Lally, who uses 20 of the cannons on his 104-hectare berry farm, sais Lee must face the reality of living in farming country. "....When they move from town to a rural area those people don't know what farming is like. Farmers have a right to farm," said Lally, who's operated Gladwin Farms Ltd. for 21 years and has used the cannons since he started.

The clashes between blueberry farmers and their neighbours may intensify as the number of hectares devoted to berry production increases in B.C. Today, blueberries are grown on 3,541 hectares in the Lower Mainland, up from 2,708 hectares five years ago, said Bert van Dalfsen, who is responsible for the blueberry cannon file with the ministry of food, agriculture and fisheries.

Ban the Cannons can't ask the City of Abbotsford for help to get rid of the devices because provincial right-to-farm legislation protects farmers against conflicts with their non-farming neighbours. The Farm Practices Protection Act exempts the farmers from nuisance legal action and municipal noise and odour by-laws.

Lee wants the farmers to use more "environmentally friendly" measures to protect their fields, like plastic netting, but Lally said at $ 1,500 per acre, the netting is too expensive and labour-intensive to install. Cannons cost between $ 750 to $ 1,200 per unit, said Lally, who has only had one complaint about his cannons this summer. Lee said the cannons are making the Fraser Valley unliveable. "One of our members is from North Vancouver. He built a home that was to be his dream home. After he was comfortably settled, up around him popped the blueberry farms." Lally doesn't have much sympathy. "When they buy those properties, they should be made aware of the noises that come with farming. We use machines to harvest. We use cannons, screechers, and small handguns to scare the birds. If not, they will eat 50 % of the crops."

-Vancouver Sun, September 3, 2001

Expert Says Whale Watching Harms Orcas

Every year, hundreds of thousands of tourists flock to the Juan de Fuca Strait to admire the rare killer whales. But when scientist Andrew Trites looks at the orcas, he sees a far sadder sight: He sees a family of threatened animals who have dwindled from 98 brothers, sisters and cousins in 1996 to just 82 this year. He suspects that the hundreds of thousands of tourists are part of the cause of the killer whales' mysterious deaths.

"At peak times in the summer, there could be 200 vessels surrounding a pod of five or six whales," said Trites, a marine mammal scientist at the University of British Columbia. "By having vessels all around them all the time, the whales never have a chance to stop and rest."

There are probably several causes for the recent deaths: Chinook salmon becoming more and more rare due to over-harvesting and damming of salmon streams, the effects of toxic chemicals ( the orcas off BC's southern coast have levels of PCBs in their bodies 500 times higher than the average human), and the stress of mobs of whale watchers surrounding them every day in noisy boats. Trites conducted studies in which he found that whales swam faster and changed their diving patterns when boats approached them. As well, the noise of the boats could disrupt the whales, who use sounds to communicate with each other and to find food.

-Excerpted from Vancouver Sun, May 28, 2001

Right to Quiet Society Newsletter, Fall, 2001

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