WATCH: Ottawa is looking for feedback on its plan to close more areas on the coast to sport and commercial fishing. Its an effort to save the endangered southern resident Orcas, but some coastal communities say the move would devastate their economies. Luisa Alvarez reports.
The fishing industry is the backbone of the economy to many of the coastal communities on Vancouver Island including Port Renfrew, so the thought of a potential fishing ban has them in a panic.
“Our communities would take a hit that they just can’t take right now,” said Vice President of the Port Renfrew chamber of commerce Karl Ablack.
Especially seeing the effect its had in Sooke after the fin ban for sports fishing was implemented by The Department of Fisheries and Oceans from Otter Point to East point near Port Renfrew.
Owner of Vancouver Island Lodge in Sooke Ryan Chamberland says they’re still in business but that could change.
“The writing is on the wall that we are potentially going to close down sooner than later,” said Chamberland.
And although DFO says there are no immediate plans to add new closures, they are actively asking for feedback on a potential closure from Owen point all the way to Tofino including the Swiftsure and Laparuse banks for recreational and commercial fishing.
“The initial survey actually ends tomorrow and none of us actually knew that was taking place,” said Ablack.
It’s to help stabilize the population of the southern resident killer whales but coastal communities like Port Renfrew, Port Alberni and Bamfield along with others including the B.C. chamber of commerce are standing together feeling left out of the process.
“We cant be surprised by it right now we are surprised by whats happening so that’s flaw number one,” said Executive Director for the Port Alberni chamber of commerce Bill Colette.
“We are in favor of protecting the whales that’s not an issue but it needs to be done in a multi-faceted approach,” said Ablack.
The chambers of commerce in the coastal communities are demanding consultation before the proposed closures devastate their communities.
“We are really reliant on sports fishers and if we lost them I think you would see our communities dwindle,” said Bamfield business owner Marnie McAughtrie.
Another sixty day consultation is set to take place in August and September but its the busiest time of year when most affected parties are out fishing.
Regional Director for the Juan De Fuca Electoral area Mike Hicks says it’s not right to do consultations in the summer.
“Right now they are doing all their consultation and everyone is out fishing its wrong it should be corrected they should come back in the winter and properly engage in consultation.”