May 27, 2010

Today in the Legislature

Dear Island Bee Keepers and everyone concerned about our precious pollinators,

Today in the Legislature I made a two minute statement about the `Day of the Honeybee`.

As you know, the government recently ended a twenty-two year old quarantine on importing bees from the mainland, and did so without consulting local bee-keeping communities and associations.

During Question Period, I raised the issue directly with the Minister responsible, asking him to pull back from this short-sighted decision and provide the protections our island honey bees desperately need.

You can watch both videos below, transcripts follow.

"Day of the Honey Bee" - Two-Minute Statement in the Legislature



Honey Bees in Question Period, May 27, 2010



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HANSARD: ROLE OF HONEYBEES IN AGRICULTURE
L. Popham: May 29 has been proclaimed the Day of the Honeybee in British Columbia. Honeybees are a big part of our pollinator population and play a critical role in the production of many B.C. crops. In fact, much of B.C.'s agricultural production is dependent on honeybee pollination. Without them, our food systems will fail.

Our proclamation was signed recently, and within our proclamation, the virtues of B.C. bees as well as the threats they face were brought to light:

"Whereas the honeybee has, through its role as pollinator, been an important part of agricultural efforts since ancient times; and whereas the honeybee plays an essential role in the success of agricultural enterprises in British Columbia; and whereas the honeybee has been under serious threat due to disease and environmental conditions that ultimately threaten the future of agriculture in our province; and whereas the government of British Columbia has worked with the agriculture industry to improve production and the honeybee has been under serious threat due to disease and environmental conditions that ultimately threaten the future of agriculture in our province. Whereas the government of British Columbia has worked with the agriculture industry to improve production and stabilize the industry. Whereas it is in the interest of furthering that goal to raise awareness of the role of the honeybee and the plight it faces."

In early May, a 22-year-old policy restricting the importation of bees to Vancouver Island was lifted. This significant decision is of grave concern to the Vancouver Island bee-keeping sector. Bee keepers are especially concerned because last winter on Vancouver Island almost 90 percent of honeybees died, largely because of the varroa mite which was introduced to island hives when an individual contravened our island quarantine.

I am wondering, given recent decisions, if the day of the honeybee will become a day of memorial for honeybees on Vancouver Island in our near future.

HANSARD: TRANSCRIPT FROM QUESTION PERIOD
L. Popham: Beekeepers on Vancouver Island are reeling from a recent decision to change the policy around the import of bees to Vancouver Island from the mainland — a policy that has been in place for 22 years. This was done without consultation, and the results may be devastating to our bee industry. The test results, which were the basis for the government to lift the quarantine, are not being made public.

Will the Minister of Agriculture commit today to listen to all island beekeepers and ensure that there will be no honeycomb and no used equipment brought onto the Island from the Lower Mainland?

Hon. S. Thomson: The member opposite is aware that we've equalized the restriction for imported bees onto Vancouver Island with federal standards. Vancouver Island beekeepers were able to import bees from Australia and from Chile before. We've equalized those standards with federal standards so that they can import bees from the Lower Mainland, providing those opportunities for the Vancouver Island bee producers.

I'm fully aware of the concerns of Vancouver Island. The member opposite knows that I've met with the presidents of the associations. For bees to come onto Vancouver Island, they require inspection, and they require a permit. We've committed to continue to work with the associations to make sure the inspection protocols are in place so that we can protect the health of the Vancouver Island bee population.

Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.

L. Popham: I understand that the minister has met with the local Island bee clubs, and so have I. It's not the bees that are a problem and that they're worried about. They're worried about the honeycomb and the used equipment. The minister has been claiming that there is science to back up the decision that was made. If he believes this is true, then there should be nothing to hide. Will he commit today to release the provincial test results to the Island beekeepers?

Hon. S. Thomson: I have met with the presidents of the associations, and I've committed to continue to meet with them. As I said, it requires inspection. It requires permit for bees to come on to Vancouver Island. We're going to continue to work with the associations around the inspection protocols to make sure that we protect the health of the Vancouver Island bee population.

Coming from the agriculture industry, I understand the importance of the bee industry to both the agriculture industry and to value-added production for small-scale farms on Vancouver Island and in British Columbia. We'll continue to work with the association to make sure that those inspection protocols and those permits are in place to protect the health of the Vancouver Island bee population.

http://www.leg.bc.ca/hansard/39th2nd/H00527y.htm

Why is the quarantine important?

1. There are diseases and pests on the Mainland that don’t exist here yet.

2. The quarantine has slowed the spread of diseases. Varroa arrived here years after it decimated the Mainland. And then only because someone knowingly brought bees in illegally.

3. We’ve just come through the worst winter of losses that the lower Island has seen — do we really need an influx of new problems just now?

4. The losses were up to 90% — what if we have something new on the island that we are about to export now?

5. Local stock is adapted to local conditions. Outside bees aren’t.

6. Surely there was plenty of time for consultations… but were you involved? No? Me neither. Neither were the Island clubs. Neither was the BCHPA.

We can overturn this decision. We need to.

A message from the Capital Region Beekeepers Association

Report from Island Bee-Keeping Community

By Brian Scullion, South Vancouver Island. Aug, 2010

Hello beekeepers and friends. The past six months have been a real challenge for many Island beekeepers. With the severe losses this past winter and the change in the policy on Movement of Bees legislation, we struggle to find any logic to support the policy change to allow bees on comb onto the Islands. We were promised consultations prior to any change in policy, but there was zero communication with Island beekeepers. We were informed via phone conference on April 22 that the policy change would take effect on May 1, 2010, and that the condition to move bees to the Islands would have the same protocols as Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has for overseas imports. Fine, we said, CFIA says no bees on comb. Next thing you know, on May 10 the policy changes again and there’s no mention of the CFIA import conditions. A coalition of Island beekeepers met with the Ministry so we could put our concerns on the table. We reiterated the facts concerning our losses on the Islands this past winter, but the British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture and Lands (BCMAL) did not seem concerned about the contributing causes.

At this meeting we brought examples and demonstrated the most common ways to move honeybees: on comb and in a package. Minister Thompson and Deputy Minister Kislock’s lack of understanding of how bees are moved, or, for that matter, of the beekeeping industry, dismayed us. We explained to the Minister that, in this day of risk and hazard assessments, the movement of bees on comb to the Islands far outweighs any economic benefit. We explained that there is a greater risk of pests, pathogens and disease on comb than in a package of bees. We were amazed when the Minister said we were wrong, there were no greater risk, and the head Apiculturist at the meeting agreed with the Minister. It took a pointed letter from a Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturalists (CAPA) member to have the Ministry understand this fact: Bees on comb poses a greater risk. Period.

We were also told that disease profiles are the same province- wide. What is wrong with that picture? Disease profiles differ greatly! Look at how information is gathered to build a disease profile: If I call for an inspection because I suspect a problem, the inspector will document what was found. But that alone doesn’t create a profile, does it? What about the beekeeper that did not require an inspection, or call for one: is he excluded from the profile? I would say so. Correct me if I am wrong, but a profile should involve an inspector calling me for a sample saying, “We require a sample of your bees as we are conducting assays and a variety of tests province-wide to give a real profile of bee health in British Columbia.” That’s a no-brainer.

As most of you must have read in the newspapers, the first move of bees on comb to the island was a sorry disaster, as the entrances to the colonies were left open allowing the bees to free fly. When the truck came to a stop on the deck of the boat, thousands of bees took flight, and It was not until the ferry made it to active pass before the deck lights were turned down and the doors opened to allow cool air to rush in. The bee carpeted car deck was closed to the public for about a half an hour, and in that time honey bees were washed into the ocean with fire hoses. We are very sad for this mismanaged move and for the unnecessary loss of thousands of honeybees.

I urge all beekeepers, the executive of the BCHPA, CAPA, Canadian Honey Council (CHC) and all bee inspectors Canada-wide to speak out on this policy change. Maybe we have it all wrong! If there are people in favour of this change in policy: Educate me; tell me we have it wrong and why. Tell me how this policy change will be beneficial to all beekeepers. I know of only one individual on the Island in favour of this change. Other than that — silence!

What we have heard, loud and clear, from Island beekeepers and Island BCHPA members, is support for the Coalition to continue pressure on the BCMAL to reverse this policy change and to preserve the health of the Vancouver Island bee district.