Coastal communities worry as critical habitat zone expansion for resident orca’s could mean more fishing closures


WATCH: With only 74 southern resident killer whales left the federal government announced an extension to their critical habitat zone. But as Luisa Alvarez reports the management measures the DFO implement in that area could devastate coastal communities say their economies are being put at risk.

In an effort to help save the southern resident orcas by protecting their food source last year, the federal government implemented a fin ban for sports fishing in the Juan De Fuca Strait.

Anglers were restricted from Sheringham Point to East Point near Port Renfrew.

It was a move President of the Sooke Regional Tourism Association and owner of Vancouver Island Lodge says has devastated the sports fishing industry in Sooke.

“Local operators are seeing up to an 80% decrease in bookings at this time last year,” said Chamberland.

Now, an extension to that critical habitat zone of more than 5,000 square km off the Southwest Coast of Vancouver Island including Swiftsure and La peruse banks is creating more uncertainty in the industry.

“What is at risk is the economic lively hood of Port Renfrew and other coastal communities along the West Coast of Vancouver Island,” said President of the Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce Karl Ablack.

But Biologist and researcher with the Raincoast Wild Salmon Program Misty MacDuffee applauds the conservation measures and supports a sports fin fish ban in the extended critical habitat zone.

“We need to put constraints on these mix stocks fisheries and that is first and foremost what DFO needs to be doing,” said MacDuffee.

On the other hand, Coastal communities whose economies rely on the sports fishing industry are sounding the alarm and say if a sports fin bad was to be implemented in that area their communities might not survive.

Thursday, seventeen of those communities stood together to send Ottawa a clear message.

” We passionately want these southern resident killer whales to be protected and preserved so let’s find management measures that accomplish that goal but also respect local communities on the coast,” said BC Chamber of Commerce CEO Val Litwin.

As the economies of many of the coastal communities hang in the balance Litwin says the million dollar question is what will DFO decide in terms of the management measures they put into place.

Executive Director for the Tofino-Long Beach Chamber of Commerce Jen Dart says they just want to be part of the discussion before DFO decides the measures they will implement.

“Depending on which management measures they take it could have a very strong impact on the local economy,” said Dart.

Luisa AlvarezLuisa Alvarez

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