As blueberry crops mature, Abbotsford is entering its first season with new regulations allowing city enforcement of the proper use of propane cannons.
The noise-making devices are used to scare birds away, creating a perennial conflict with neighbours who object to the loud bangs that can continue from dawn until dusk.
The use of cannons is protected by the provincial Right to Farm Act and the Ministry of Agriculture sets out guidelines for the use of cannons. Any complaints about improper use of cannons were previously dealt with by a liaison from the BC Blueberry Council.
The city passed a bylaw earlier this year that set out enforcement measures and fines for misuse of the cannons. The regulations mimic the ministry guidelines for cannon use, but puts enforcement and complaint management under city control, and allows fines to be levied against those who do not comply.
City clerk Bill Flitton said Abbotsford bylaw officers, with assistance from the BC Blueberry Council, will begin by educating farmers who are not following the regulations, such as registering their devices with the city and having a sign on their sites.
With some opponents urging a total ban of the cannons, the previous city council had passed a bylaw setting out stricter regulations for their use, but it failed to gain the necessary provincial approval.
Abbotsford’s bylaw is similar to that of the Township of Langley, which passed its regulations in 2013 – also based on ministry guidelines.
The devices can operate from 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. – or from sunrise to sunset, whichever is less – and single-shot cannons can go off once per five minutes and multiple-shot devices can shoot 11 times per hour – for a maximum of 33 shots – with a break between noon and 3 p.m.
The devices may only be used when registered with the city, and require a bird predation management plan.
A minimum of one device may be used per two hectares of cropland and must be 200 metres from all adjacent dwellings and any enclosure that normally houses horses.
Fines start at $200 for a first offence, $300 for a second, and rise to $500 for third and subsequent offences. If issues continue, “we can ramp up fine activity fairly quickly if a farm is non-compliant with the bylaw,” Flitton said.
More information about how to register an audible bird scare device visit www.abbotsford.ca/city_hall/bylaws.htm.
Residents who want to make a complaint can email firstname.lastname@example.org, call 604-864-5512, or visit www.abbotsford.ca/city_hall/bylaws.htm.
Flitton said people should be aware the city is not permitted to release the names of complainants.
As the season continues, Flitton said there will be times and areas of the city “that will reveal farmers who simply either don’t understand, or don’t wish to comply with the regulations, and that’s where we will be stepping up enforcement.”