Premier John Horgan is wading into the debate on the possible expansion of restricted fishing zones on south and west Vancouver Island.
Earlier this year, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans announced a recreation fishing closure until Oct. 1 in the Strait of Juan de Fuca from Otter Point to East Point, near Port Renfrew, and some areas around the Gulf Islands.
This month DFO also sought public feedback on further fishing closures in two additional areas: the waters on the continental shelf off the southwestern Vancouver Island, including Swiftsure and La Pérouse Banks, and the waters of the west Dixon Entrance, along the north coast of Graham Island from Langara to Rose Spit.
DFO says the fishing restrictions are aimed at protecting critical habitat areas for killer whales and to save dwindling chinook salmon stocks.
But Horgan, who is also the MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca, in a letter to Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc says that while he supports efforts to recover the killer whale populations, he questions the federal government’s approach.
“The process through which [DFO] Pacific Region staff engaged with stakeholders over the recently enacted southern resident killer whale-related closure in the Strait of Juan de Fuca left many stakeholders questioning the value of engaging in such a process,” Horgan wrote.
He said the new round of public feedback gives little time for those associated with the industry to respond in a timely fashion, with many Indigenous, recreational and commercial stakeholders engaged in peak-season operations.
“It appears the Pacific Region is more focused on short-term fixes rather than on presenting a cohesive plan that will accomplish these goals over the long term,” Horgan said.
Horgan isn’t the only local politician who is questioning DFO’s request for feedback on further fishing closures, with Cowichan-Malahat-Langford MP Alistair MacGregor is also writing to LeBlanc.
“The thought of a potential fishing ban has many of my constituents very concerned with the future of their livelihoods,” wrote MacGregor.
“Any proposed closures to salmon fisheries in the Strait of Juan de Fuca must be balanced with an understanding of the role of fishing communities in moving conservation and enhancement efforts forward in order to be effective.”
Following the feedback from the public on recovery strategy for the west coast of the Island, DFO plans to draw up a proposal, and again consult the public. This is expected to happen in late summer.
To give your feedback to the DFO on their recovery strategy, please go online to www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca.