Thirty-six boats showed up on Sooke waters to protest fishing closures on Sunday, but organizer Bruce Webber is disappointed with the turnout.
Webber said foggy weather could have contributed to why people didn’t show up, but regardless, he is frustrated that no one came to have their voices heard.
“So many people do all this talking, and then when it actually comes time to show up, they don’t,” said Webber. “I think once it starts affecting more people, then we will see more people standing up and protesting, but I don’t know why they wouldn’t want to take action before decisions are made and the DFO closes more areas.”
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans recently asked for the public’s feedback on a possible expansion of restricted fishing zones on South and West Vancouver Island.
The revised strategy looks to possibly implement a fishing closure in to two areas: the waters on the continental shelf off southwestern Vancouver Island, including Swiftsure and La Pérouse Banks, and the waters of west Dixon Entrance, along the north coast of Graham Island from Langara to Rose Spit, which is important for northern resident killer whales.
Following the feedback from the public about the revised recovery strategy, the DFO plans to draw up a proposal, and again consult the public online. This is expected to happen over the next three months.
“The government will then have 30 days to incorporate comments before posting the final document on the Species at Risk Public Registry, anticipated to occur by December 2018,” said the DFO.
Webber, who is a retired fisherman, said he would like to see another protest happen soon, but he doesn’t have time to spend organizing them if no one shows up.
“I wish more people would come, but I think the protest did create more conversation around the issue and that is what we were aiming to do,” said Webber, adding he hopes protesting will change the way the DFO approaches future closures, as well as reconsider closures already made.
In late spring the Department of Fisheries and Oceans announced a ban on harvesting any fin fish from Otter Point in Sooke to East Point, near Port Renfrew, a stretch of approximately 50 kilometres extended from the shoreline to U.S. waters.
A DFO representative told the News Mirror the choices were made to preserve the chinook salmon population, which makes up much of the whales’ diet, and to decrease noise disturbances in the area.
The ban went into effect June 1 and lasts until Sept. 30.
“There was no thought put in to it, they just did it, and we would like to at least see Otter Point to Sheringham reopened. Fisherman are ambassadors for whales, we are not the bad guys. It doesn’t make sense why the DFO is targeting us,” said Webber. “This affects a lot of people, and we live in a country where we can have our voices heard, so I wish more people would speak up.”