South Island anglers feel 'stabbed in the back' over potential fishery closures
CTV Vancouver Island
Published Tuesday, May 29, 2018 6:55PM PDT
Last Updated Tuesday, May 29, 2018 7:01PM PDT
Those who make a living in Vancouver Island's fishing industry say a federal plan to conserve salmon by closing fisheries feels like a betrayal.
Last week, the federal government announced plans to close some recreational and commercial fisheries on B.C.'s coast, citing a lack of prey for the endangered southern resident killer whales that frequent local waters.
Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc said reducing the total chinook fishery by 25 to 35 per cent would help grow the number of chinook salmon, the orcas' main food source.
South Island charter fisherman Ryan Chamberland said he supported the project at the time, but he wasn't prepared for how far it could go.
"If this keeps up, and our government's not willing to work with us and be flexible on these issues, people will be closing up," Chamberland told CTV News Tuesday.
At the time of the announcement, LeBlanc said many of the closures would be in the Juan de Fuca Strait from Otter Point to Port Renfrew, and parts of the Southern Gulf Islands.
But now, anglers like Chamberland fear the DFO wants to close off even more of their allowable fishing area.
"I'd say 60 to 70 per cent [will be gone]," he said. "This is going to hurt our local economy big time. Sooke, Port Renfrew, Victoria, I mean, the sport fishing industry brings in so much money."
Fisherman Glen Varney, a member of the South Island Anglers Coalition, said he feels local anglers are getting "stabbed in the back" as more area is restricted.
"What we're hearing is they're going to extend it even bigger," he said. "It seems like the more work we do to enhance our fish populations and to give back…the government's like, the heck with you guys, we're just going to do what we want to do. I feel betrayed by our government."
While fishermen say they're willing to at least have some of their waters blocked off, conservationists say not enough is being closed by Ottawa.
With only 76 southern resident orcas left, environmentalists want all marine traffic our of coastal B.C. waters including fishermen, whale-watching boats and freighters.
"This is what killer whales need and anything less undermines their chances at recovery," said Misty McDuffee, a biologist with the Raincoast Conservation Foundation.
The federal government is expected to announce the exact closure area this week.