Select committee to examine blueberry cannon bylaw

City of Abbotsford votes to move forward with bylaw to govern use of audible bird scare devices.

Cherry Groves was among opponents to blueberry cannons who addressed council Monday night.

Cherry Groves was among opponents to blueberry cannons who addressed council Monday night.

A bylaw governing the use of blueberry cannons is one step closer to reality.

On Monday night, Abbotsford council listened to 11 delegations, who spoke both for and against giving the city the power to enforce stricter regulations on the audible bird scare devices.

Coun. John Smith raised the issue last month and has been pushing for a bylaw that would allow the city to create different regulations than those of the ministry of agriculture.

A select committee will now be formed to develop the bylaw, including Mayor Bruce Banman, two city councillors and four citizens.

“Those seven individuals will consult with the industry, the blueberry council, the farmers, the complainants, the ministry of agriculture and they will come up with recommendations,” said Smith.

He expects the committee to present a report before council by December.

Smith would like to see the starting time for cannons moved from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m., and the evening deadline moved from 8 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Existing provincial guidelines call for the devices to be shut off between noon and 3 p.m. Smith would also like to see cannon setbacks extended from the current guideline of 200 meters to 300. And he is suggesting “tough” fines for non-compliance.

Even if a bylaw is created, the ministry of agriculture would have to approve it.

The blueberry cannon debate has been going on for years. Residents living close to farms using cannons or other devices have complained that the noise is destroying their peace.

Opponents feel the ministry regulations aren’t strong enough to stop some farmers from abusing the cannons.

“Does my neighbour have the right to wake up my entire family at 6:30 a.m. every morning, regardless if it be Saturday, Sunday or a holiday? They have that right,” said Gary Suddard.

He told council that it’s not just cannons. Orchard pistols release a 100-decibel shrieking sound, terrifying livestock, said Suddard.

Another device used to scare birds away from the berry crops are squawkers, which are speakers placed around a blueberry field that play recorded sounds of a “bird being tortured.” He said they are allowed to be played every one minute and six seconds.

He said the solution is simple – farmers should use nets.

Resident Cherry Groves agreed and also expressed her frustration to council. She prefers a complete ban on cannons, which she said is the ultimate goal. However, she said a stricter bylaw may be a first step.

“The noise has to stop.”

But local farmer Jasbir Banwait said cannons are a necessary tool to combat the birds that eat blueberry crops. He said netting is expensive and in many cases would not be practical.

“I know everyone here is aware of the positive economic effect the blueberry industry has on Abbotsford. Let’s not make it even harder and less likely for our blueberry farmers to be successful in our community,” said Banwait.

Debbie Etsell, executive director of the BC Blueberry Council said the problem isn’t stricter regulations, it’s enforcing the ones that currently exist.

She said the council’s mediator has had success solving many conflicts between farmers and neighbours, but the public doesn’t hear about “the growers that reduce their frequency” or the farmers that have removed devices.

“There are growers who do care about their neighbours, but they also care about their losses,” said Etsell.

So she supports the idea of a city bylaw, but one that uses existing guidelines.

“We would like to see a fine in place and that it be a fine that deters a grower from being non-compliant.”

Just Posted

The intersection of Blueridge Drive and Blue Jay Street is one of three intersections in Abbotsford approved for traffic lights this year. (Google Street View)
Traffic signals approved at 3 Abbotsford intersections

Projects part of $1.45M in road upgrades around community

A young couple walks through the Othello Tunnels just outside of Hope. (Jessica Peters/Black Press)
Hope’s Othello Tunnels fully open to the public

Geological testing proved the area safe enough to open for the first time in more than a year

An apartment building and townhouse project has been proposed at 2236 McCallum Rd. in Abbotsford. The development was given third reading by city council on June 14. (City of Abbotsford)
Apartment-and-townhouse project planned on McCallum Road in Abbotsford

Development across from old hospital site consists of 174 suites and 10 townhouses

Adam Hobbs went missing from a Langley work site on Monday, June 14 and may have gone to Vancouver. (Special to the Langley Advance Times)
Family, RCMP seek Abbotsford man missing from Langley job site

Adam Hobbs lives in Abbotsford and is a minor hockey referee

Police were on scene Monday afternoon (June 14) in the area of George Ferguson Way and Ware Street. (John Morrow/Abbotsford News)
Police called out after reports of possible home invasion in Abbotsford

Incident on Monday afternoon at George Ferugson Way and Ware Street

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
VIDEO: Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

Doctor David Vallejo and his fiancee Doctor Mavelin Bonilla hold photos of themselves working, as they kiss at their home in Quito, Ecuador, Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Doctor Vallejo and Doctor Bonilla suspended their wedding in order to tend to COVID-19 patients and in the process Vallejo got sick himself with the disease, ending up in an ICU for several days. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)
Love, sacrifice and surviving COVID-19: one couple’s story

COVID hits Ecuadorian doctors who delayed wedding to treat sick

Cover of the 32-page Surrey First Peoples Guide for Newcomers, created and compiled by Jeska Slater.
New ‘Surrey First Peoples Guide for Newcomers’ seeks to ‘uplift and amplify’ voices

32-page guide launched Tuesday by Surrey Local Immigration Partnership (LIP)

West Coast Duty Free president Gary Holowaychuk stands next to empty shelves inside his store on Tuesday (June 15). (Aaron Hinks photo)
Revenue down 97% at Surrey duty free as owner waits for U.S. border to reopen

Products approaching best before dates had to be donated, others destroyed

St. Joseph's Mission site is located about six kilometres from Williams Lake First Nation. (Photo submitted)
Williams Lake First Nation to search residential school site for unmarked graves

St. Joseph’s Mission Indian Residential School operated from 1886 to 1981

Tuesday’s Lotto Max draw went unclaimed. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Tuesday’s Lotto Max draw went unclaimed. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lotto Max jackpot goes unclaimed again

42 of the 64 Maxmillion prizes of $1 million were won, the majority were sold in Ontario

FILE - This July 6, 2017 file photo shows prescription drugs in a glass flask at the state crime lab in Taylorsville, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
Contaminants in generic drugs may cause long-term harm to DNA: B.C. researcher

Scientist says findings suggest high volume overseas facilities require strict regulation

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., on April 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Labour shortages, closed borders major obstacles to B.C. restaurant, tourism restarts

Industry expert says it won’t start to recover until international travellers can visit

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read