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Plan to help Chinook salmon, orcas dismissed as unfairly targeting sports fishermen
As the federal government hears feedback on a new plan to protect orcas, local fishermen and fishing groups say another recently announced action will impact local economies and question whether proposed actions to help orcas are unfairly targeting sports fishermen.
Last week, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans announced what it was doing to help declining Fraser River Chinook salmon. That included non-retention of Chinook in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Southern Strait of Georgia until July 31. Conservationists say it's a necessary move for Southern Resident killer whales.
Darren Wright, owner of the Island Outfitters in Victoria says they have halibut fishing gear on display because that’s basically all they can sell. He expects business to slow down, and warns the measures will have a big and widespread impact.
“They're going to take little towns like Port Renfrew and Ucuelet and Tofino that rely on sports fishing and shut them down,” he told CTV News Vancouver on Tuesday.
Some of the affected sports fishermen are in premier John Horgan’s riding. He says he’s disappointed in the closures.
“Their livelihoods are now compromised because of these decisions and I know the federal government understands that,” Horgan told CTV. He went on to say, “I would love to see a compensation package for those that are being adversely affected but at this point I haven't seen that.”
DFO responded to a request from CTV by pointing out engagement will continue on the chinook fishing closers with first nations, the province and other stakeholders. The statement made no mention of compensation.
The feds are now asking for input on new proposed measures to further protect the endangered orcas.
Expanded fishing closures and new no-go zones would also apply to sports fishermen. DFO is holding three public consultations starting with one in Langford Tuesday, another in Sooke Wednesday and the final one in Richmond Thursday.
Wright plans to attend the first meeting and share a message.
“I don't think anybody has an answer we need a lot of fish in the water and what sports fishermen catch is a drop in the bucket,” Wright said.
The feds are also under fire from environmentalists who accuse the government of not acting fast enough. Some have said Ottawa is focusing too much on more reports instead of concrete action to help the Southern Resident Killer Whale population. There are now just 75 left. Some scientists believe the orcas are starving. They feed mostly on Chinook, which is why the closures could also help the mammals.
In a statement, DFO said it is taking measures to deal with a declining population of salmon. Admitting some of the decisions are difficult ones.
“We have to be concerned about the conservation of the species,” Wilkinson told CTV last week. He added, “It serves no body's interest fishers or anybody else if we allow these species to go extinct.”
Wright says he agrees something needs to be done, but he’s simply questioning why the focus is on limiting access for those who fish recreationally instead of increasing the amount of fish through hatcheries.
“Just because they shut down fishing doesn't mean I’m going to take up golfing, I’m a fisherman,” said Wright.