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A letter to our
Health Minister

Date: Sat, 10 Aug 2002 20:59:16 -0700

To: Colin Hansen

CC: Gulzar Cheema,
Joy McPhail,
Randy White,
John van Dongen,
Mike de Jong,
Geraldine Auston

Subject: Blueberry Cannons

The Honorable Colin Hansen
Minister of Health Services
P.O. Box 9050
Victoria, B.C. V8W 9E2

Dear Sir,
I would like to draw your attention to a situation that has been developing in various parts of the province and particularly in the Fraser Valley.
August is Blueberry Month and the onslaught of the blueberry cannons began well over a month ago. This is a propane cannon used to scare birds off crops. I use the term to cover all types of bird scare noise devices which are numerous, the three most common being cannons, AV alarms and orchard pistols.
Residents in the Fraser Valley are being subjected to these explosions from 6:30am to 8pm, every five minutes, every day, for weeks on end, no weekends off, no holidays. This is the recommendation of the Minister of Agriculture, who after a meeting in April, promised many changes for this season only two of which he has followed through on. One was to delay the start from 6am to 6:30 and increase the frequency from 3 minutes to 5, and two was to set distance guidelines. The minister refuses to consider decibel levels, a very handy loophole for many farmers who just crank up the volume to compensate for the distance.
This is not just a nuisance issue it is a health issue. Because of the extreme decibel levels and frequency of the cannons people are experiencing increased levels of stress, possible hearing problems and sleep deprivation.
A single shot cannon is allowed 12 explosions per hour, a triple shot cannon is allowed 33 explosions per hour. I have yet to understand that logic. If you live next to a farm with 2 or 3 cannons, all multiple shot, then you hear up to 1335 explosions in one day. Multiply that by any number of farms around you. This continues for weeks and many farmers completely ignore the guidelines. It's like a war zone.
Bert van Dalfsen (MAFF) says in his report "The Use of Audible Bird Scare Devices in British Columbia in 2001", that "The perception of sounds as noise and nuisance is dependent on the listeners' attitude" (pg 6). What absolute nonsense!
Some of these cannons are emitting sounds up to130 decibels. The WCB recommends ear protection for anything over 85 decibels. A jackhammer is up to 120 decibels and a jet taking off is 130 -150 decibels. Many cannons are going off while there are pickers in the fields, many of whom are children. Why should it be necessary to have anything so loud when clapping your hands is enough to scare the birds. Everyone here has seen birds sitting on a cannon, lift off when it explodes and then settle right back on it again. I call it their dinner bell. Similar to Pavlov's dogs.
Many studies have been done to prove that people deprived of sufficient sleep do not function well and can be at risk of injury to themselves or others. When a cannon is left firing all night you do not sleep. People work shifts, they have to sleep during the day. My husband is a commercial airline pilot. Many of his flights are all nighters so it is imperative that he sleeps during the afternoon or early evening. The next time you take a red-eye to the east you can sit there and wonder whether or not your pilot lives near a blueberry cannon, has he had any sleep that day, is he sitting in the cockpit trying his hardest to stay awake and alert.
The BC Blueberry Council has been doing their best to handle complaints about farmers not complying to the guidelines set up by the Ministry of Agriculture. A pretty hard task when there are no penalties or fines.
The answer to all of this of course is for the farmers to use nets. They save 100% of their crop and everyone around them is happy. The Minister of Agriculture is considering a one time fund for netting however the farmers will have to pay up front and will then only receive a 30% rebate. Where is the incentive in that?
I could go on and on about one's right to peace and enjoyment of their property as stated in our municipal noise bylaw but I won't. My reason in writing to you is to ask for your help in putting an end to this intolerable situation. As more and more fields go into production the situation is going to get worse and worse.
I look forward to hearing from you.

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