Canadian fishery officials are looking for input on a number of “recovery measures” being considered for orcas, including new no-go zones, voluntary no-fishing areas and expanded vessel slowdowns in waters directly across from Washington, and that has fishing interests worried.
The “online consultation” period opened today and highlights actions Department of Fisheries and Oceans took last year on the British Columbia side of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Gulf/San Juan Islands and lays out scenarios “A” and “B” for the same areas for 2019 and beyond.
Maps outline newly designated “enhanced management areas” that DFO says are key foraging waters for southern residents, and inside and adjacent to those are proposed no-go/reduced use zones such as at Swiftsure Bank and on portions of the southern sides of Pender and Saturna Islands.
The Swiftsure boat ban would be bordered on its west and east sides by no fishing areas under one scenario, but not in the other, though both scenarios overlay a voluntary no-angling area on most of the western and central Strait.
Paraphrasing a member of the regional local government, the Sooke News Mirror wrote that that would have “a devastating effect for Sooke and Port Renfrew.”
“I am asking all residents of the Juan de Fuca electoral area and the District of Sooke to read the proposals and, if you agree that some fishing should take place, e-mail DFO.SRKW-ERS.MPO@dfo-mpo.gc.ca and express your support for scenario A with an amendment to remove the No Go zone on the Swiftsure,” Mike Hicks of the Capital Regional District board of directors wrote in a letter to the paper.
Under both scenarios, those waters could also see “expansion of fishery closures to include additional recreational fisheries and/or commercial fisheries.”
It wasn’t clear what that meant, but for the Gulf Islands shellfishing — crabbing and shrimping — is listed as a possibility there.
In areas identified as critical foraging waters at the mouth of the Fraser River is another proposed voluntary no-fishing zone, next to areas that were closed last year and will be this year.
Earlier this week DFO announced large-scale changes to salmon fisheries in the Dixon Entrance, off Vancouver Island and in the Fraser itself to protect Chinook coming back to the river and benefit orcas.
Canadian managers are also proposing voluntary and mandatory changes for small boaters and commercial vessels in areas designated critical habitat, enhanced management and no-go zones.
Comments are open through May 1 for Canadians, First Nations and stakeholders, with meetings planned next week in Sooke, Victoria and Richmond.