Anglers fear further fishery closures on western Vancouver Island
Published Tuesday, July 10, 2018 6:34PM PDT
Last Updated Tuesday, July 10, 2018 6:46PM PDT
Members of Vancouver Island's sport-fishing community say they're worried that recent federal changes to give orcas their best chance at survival will also end up killing their businesses.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has launched a plan to conserve salmon – and in turn, provide more food for the dwindling number of southern resident orcas in B.C. waters – by closing some recreational and commercial fisheries in the province.
Earlier this year, Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc said reducing the chinook fishery by 25 to 35 per cent would help grow the number of salmon.
But sport fishermen on the island are convinced that the DFO is preparing to block even more vital fishing grounds.
"Yeah I'm scared for the town, absolutely," said Port Renfrew charter fisherman Quinn MacDonald. "We would all lose our jobs, we'd have to sell our boats. They'd be worth almost nothing."
So far, the DFO has already blocked sport salmon fishing from Sooke to Port Renfrew this summer.
Coastal business leaders now fear DFO discussions about adding an area from Port Renfrew to Tofino to a critical habitat list will mean further closures – and a doomed industry.
"Everybody is afraid right now," said Karl Ablack, Vice-President of the Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce. "It would be decimating to us. So much of our economy is dependent on sport fishing."
Concern may be premature, as the federal government has maintained no further closures are being considered this year – and so far none have been discussed.
But the fear of lost industry is still rampant in western Vancouver Island communities.
"We're heavily reliant on sport fishers," said Marnie McAughtrie of the Bamfield Chamber of Commerce. "If we lost them, our community would start to dwindle again."
The groups are demanding that the DFO engage in new consultations about the critical habitat process once fishermen are finished with the busy summer season.