A year ago Saanich Coun. Fred Haynes toured six farms that grow local fruit, grains, vegetables and greens and produce milk, eggs and meats. The resounding concern among the farmers was the unsustainable predation of their crops by the ever-increasing populations of Canada geese.
It’s making it increasingly difficult to earn a living for local farmers, he said.
Haynes is now looking to make life and economic certainty a little easier for Saanich farmers.
To this end he has prepared a report to Saanich council recommending an amendment to Bylaw No. 8092 to permit hunting during hunting season on the same farm lands with the same nominees previously permitted firearm licence by the Saanich police for the purpose of reducing the population of non-migratory geese.
Haynes said the problem with geese is they eat and damage the crops and when they defecate, the crops can’t be harvested.
“If we want local food, and we say we do, farmers on the peninsula need our clear and firm support on taking actions to resolve the unsustainable predation of their crops,” said Haynes in an informal report to council.
Haynes said the current farmers may be the last generation to farm the land and provide Vancouver Island with food. To attract new farmers, there needs to be a viable economic package. Land is expensive and with the damage done to crops by geese, deer and rabbits, it does not make farming a good business prospect.
“The problem right now is there are 6,000 non-migratory geese and by extension there could be 60,000 in 20 years,” said Haynes.
In a letter to Saanich council, Mike Hicks, Regional Director for the Juan de Fuca Electoral Area, said, “The most practical, humane and cost-effective method of maintaining or reducing the overall population is to allow limited and restricted hunting of geese.”
“I have to applaud Mike Hicks for bringing this forward,” said Haynes.
Hicks’ suggestion, endorsed by Haynes, states that the current Crop Damage Permits allow for the hunting of between five and 10 birds per week. Hunters are not allowed to use blinds or decoys and they cannot eat the geese. Hicks would like to see hunters permitted to “keep and eat these beautiful birds.”
The Capital Regional District (CRD) passed a motion on Jan. 13, requesting that the rural municipalities change their firearms bylaw to allow hunting to take place on farms that have obtained a Crop Damage Permit from the federal government’s Canadian Wildlife Service. In practical terms, farmers and their nominees would be allowed, in addition to their total of five geese per week, to hunt during these seasons with blinds and decoys to take 10 geese per day per hunter.
“If we want local food we have to look after things, we need to help the next generation of farmers,” said Haynes.
Haynes said local grocery stores are seeking locally grown foods and if farmers cannot deliver because of crop damage, then that opportunity for economic viability suffers. It is also about the creation of sustainable jobs in targeted sectors – agriculture being one of those jobs.
“This increases the focus and we need to have the ability to stand up and deal with the problem,” said Haynes.
“I anticipate it will pass through council with a majority vote,” stated Haynes.