New killer whale foraging zone to expand fishing restrictions off Vancouver Island
Southern resident orca K25 is seen mid-breach in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. (Dave Ellifrit/Center for Whale Research)
VICTORIA -- A killer whale-only dining zone in the Strait of Juan de Fuca will be expanded when fishing restrictions return this summer.
According to the Fisheries and Oceans Canada, a ban on commercial and recreational salmon fishing in a wide spread area of the strait will return this year.
The ban, which has been in place in some form since 2018, will begin on Aug. 1 and run until Oct. 31.
This summer the orca-only foraging area will be expanded by a large swath of Canadian waters off Bonilla Point.
The large triangular section of water will be off-limits to any fishing outside of traditional food fishing for B.C. First Nations.
Another massive section of the strait continues to be off limits to anglers. It runs from Sheringham Point, northwest of Sooke, to Port Renfrew.
The new addition comes as federal scientists continue to study the impact of a dwindling salmon population on southern resident killer whales.
Orca experts say they are still researching the effects of giving orcas their own areas to fish without any human interference.
The iconic species in the Pacific Northwest continues to inch nearer to extinction.
In 2019, scientists tracked two new births in the population, but also recorded the deaths of three southern residents and the disappearance of another.
In total, there are only 72 of the whales left.
Fishing tour operators in the Sooke area have criticized the large fishing blackout zones saying it has discouraged tourism.
Commercial and recreation fishing bans are also in place in the Gulf Islands area to help protect salmon stocks for killer whales.