A coho salmon. (Photo - Flickr/Bureau of Land Management)

A coho salmon. (Photo - Flickr/Bureau of Land Management)

Ucluelet fears orca protection could shut down fisheries

“I beg you to start a process to put a stick in the wheels and slow these people down.”

Ucluelet’s municipal council has written a letter urging the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada to have a closer look at its proposed recovery strategy for orcas before it crushes Ucluelet’s economy with a potential fishery closure.

DFO has identified Swiftsure and La Perouse Banks as feeding areas for southern resident killer whales and is considering designating the areas as critical habitats, which West Coast fishers fear could bring closures, particularly to the region’s recreational fishery.

READ MORE: West Coast leaders fear orca habitat protection could bring fishery closures

“There is no doubt that, if the proposed critical habitat area was implemented today, Ucluelet would be placed into an economic crisis having major financial implications to the community,” Ucluelet council wrote in their letter.

Through the letter, Ucluelet asks DFO to pause the designation pursuit until an economic impact assessment has been completed that specifically looks at the potential impacts to coastal communities and also demands further consultation with residents and stakeholders.

Mayor Dianne St. Jacques read the letter aloud during Oct. 9’s regular council meeting and council agreed to encourage other communities in the region to work together to find alternative solutions.

“It’s basically a call to arms,” said Coun. Randy Oliwa.

DFO hosted a public information session on Oct. 4, but that did little to ease local concerns.

Sportsfisher Miles Downsbrough told the Westerly News he has been fishing off Ucluelet for roughly 15 years and said any fishery closure would have dramatic impacts on the West Coast.

READ MORE: Willie Mitchell’s Fish for the Future derby nets $14K for salmon restoration efforts in Tofino

“Bamfield is going to be hugely affected. Ucluelet has other economies to keep it going, but fishing and sport fishing is a big part of the economy here. So that affects everybody, it can affect property values, jobs; it can affect everything right down the line,” he said.

He said the implications of the designation remain ambiguous as DFO has not announced what the specific ramifications would be if the designation goes forward.

“I don’t really know what I’m fighting for because they’re being really unclear,” he said.

During the public input portion of Oct. 9’s council meeting, resident Erik Larsen said he came out of DFO’s information session with none of his questions answered.

“It appeared to me that we were just one box that they [DFO] were ticking off to carry on to fulfill their mandate and they couldn’t care less what was happening to us,” he said. “If these people have their way, more than a third of the people you saw in the streets in Ucluelet this summer will be gone…I beg you to start a process to put a stick in the wheels and slow these people down.”

READ MORE: Ucluelet makes young New Yorkers salmon catching dream come true

He added DFO should be looking into enhanced salmon habitat restoration funding as well as the impacts seals and sea lions have on fish populations before implementing any fishing closures.

Mayor St. Jacques said Ucluelet is working on solutions alongside the Alberni Clayoquot Regional District and Ucluelet Chamber of Commerce.

“I don’t think anybody disagrees with your statements. It’s going to have a huge impact on the community,” she said to Larsen. “I agree with you. We should be nervous about this species at risk group. They do pack a big stick and have a lot of power.”

She added that everybody recognizes the importance of orcas, but suggested more research needs to be done for alternative solutions like hatchery funding and investigating predators, while also balancing the economic impact a closure would have on the coastal community.

READ MORE: Salmon populations drastically declining around Tofino and Ucluelet

Lara Kemps of the Ucluelet Chamber of Commerce attended a meeting between B.C. Chambers and DFO on Thursday and told the Westerly News after the meeting that the Chamber will continue pushing hard for alternative solutions.

“If sports fishing were to close on our Coast, it would devastate our communities,” she said. “We need to find solutions that are beneficial to everyone, like increasing budget and awareness to our hatcheries and creek restoration.”

Kemps encourages residents concerned about the potential protected habitat designation to email their concerns and solutions to DFO at SARA/LEP.XNCR@dfo-mpo.gc.ca before Nov. 3 and to also sign a petition being circulated by Ucluelet resident Lynette O’Brien.

Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns told the Westerly he has been working with O’Brien and the Chamber on the petition so he can present it to the House of Commons.

“We want to make sure that the government, when they’re identifying critical habitats, get it right because it affects peoples’ livelihoods,” he said.

READ MORE: West Coast fishers see empty seas, demand Pacific Salmon Treaty funding

He added that the overwhelming view on the West Coast is that more funding is needed for salmon restoration work and hatcheries, rather than closures.

“We’ve heard this right across the board, the spirit of the communities is, if they [DFO] really care about southern resident killer whales, they should inject immediate funds into coastal communities that produce the fish and bring our fish back,” he said. “The sledgehammer approach of a closure that could happen as a result of this critical habitat process isn’t the solution. The solution is bringing back more fish.”

He said orcas are a big part of the West Coast’s economy, but added that DFO needs to complete more research before moving forward with the designation.

“My role in this is to ensure that the government conducts a fair process,” he said. “We all care about the southern resident killer whale population. There are absolutely serious concerns and legitimate concerns that need to be addressed around their survival.”



andrew.bailey@westerlynews.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Tourists are being asked to postpone their non-essential trips to Tofino as COVID-19 cases rise across Vancouver Island, but at least one accommodation provider is offering conflicting messaging. (Westerly file photo)
Victoria woman says Tofino Airbnb host encouraged travel despite provincial restrictions

“The only way I would get a refund is if she would be able to rebook the suite for that weekend.”

A sign outside Ucluelet’s Blue Room on Monday morning advises patrons that the restaurant has gone back to take-out only. (Andrew Bailey photo)
Some Ucluelet restaurants heading back to take-out only as COVID-19 concerns rise

Ucluelet mayor Mayco Noel urges residents to be respectul of business owners’ decisions.

A sign at the entrance to Ty-Histanis asks visitors to stay out of the community during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Andrew Bailey photo)
Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation announces lockdown after member tests positive for COVID-19

Essential travel only and restricted to Tofino and Ucluelet.

Tofino Sea Kayaking staff Sable Trafton holds a gift card they are contributing ‘12 Days of Jingle’ draw. One lucky local will has the chance to win $500 worth of gift cards to local merchants. (TLCC photo)
Tofino’s 12 Days of Jingle kicks off holiday season

“We wanted to do it early so people could make purchases and send them wherever they need to go.”

FILE – British Columbia provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry wears a face mask as she views the Murals of Gratitude exhibition in Vancouver, on Friday, July 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Masks now mandatory in all public indoor and retail spaces in B.C.

Many retailers and businesses had voiced their frustration with a lack of mask mandate before

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Nov. 23, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. daily COVID-19 cases hits record 941 on Tuesday

Further restrictions on indoor exercise take effect

(Pixabay.com)
Man, 28, warned by Kootenay police to stop asking people to marry him

A woman initially reported the incident to police before they discovered others had been popped the question

Winston Blackmore (left) and James Oler (right) were sentenced on separate charges of polygamy this week in Cranbrook Supreme Court.
No more charges expected in Bountiful investigation, special prosecutor says

Special prosecutor says mandate has ended following review of evidence from Bountiful investigations

(Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Refuse to follow B.C.’s mask mandate? Face a $230 fine

Masks are now required to be worn by all British Columbians, 12 years and older

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Parksville’s French Creek Harbour experienced a diesel spill on Nov. 23 after a barge and fishing vessel collided. (Mandy Moraes photo)
Coast Guard cleans up diesel spill in Parksville’s French Creek Harbour

Barge carrying fuel truck collides with fishing vessel

Stock photo
Senior from Gibsons caught viewing child porn sentenced to 10 months

74-year-old pleaded guilty after police seized 1,500-2,500 images

BC Teachers' Federation President Teri Mooring is asking parents of school-aged children to encourage the wearing of masks when possible in schools. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
LETTER: Teachers union encourages culture of mask wearing in B.C. schools

BCTF President Teri Mooring asks parents to talk with children about wearing masks in school

Most Read