Westward Independent

Crisis in the Water: The Battle for Survival Of Fishing on Vancouver Island

by Adrienne Richards

Will provincial mandates shut down fishing in BC?

Part One: Reason one to shut down recreational and food fishing in B.C.

In part one of a three part series we look at a global trend squeezing farmers that has now reached our fishermen, and we embark on this series with a report on an industry grappling with the consequences of flawed science and provincial mandates influenced by NGOs. We also recommend the short documentary on Youtube: “No Fishing Allowed: Trudeau’s Plan to Decimate an Entire Industry” by Aaron Gunn

These narratives echo a familiar theme worldwide: livelihoods and food sources restricted based on models and predictions, much like climate science, without consulting those who have toiled the land and sea for generations. They are left to confront giants armed only with their knowledge and a modest budget.

Last year, Port Renfrew (P.R.) witnessed a 70% loss in its Fish Guiding and tourist industry, reducing annual income from 25 million to 16.5 million. With the proposed cancellation of all fishing this year, the town faces an uncertain future. Approximately 68% of real estate in the P.R. area is up for sale, and the resort cabins felt the impact last year. What has transformed this once-bustling fishing and tourist town? In 2019, Bill C-68 granted the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) enhanced power over regulating fishing, shifting its focus from overseeing the fishing economy to habitat and marine wildlife. Since then, mandates and policies have gradually encroached on local fishermen and recreational sports fishing jobs, shortening the fishing season and imposing catch limits of the prized Chinook allowed to be caught from two fish to one allowed to be caught.

Excuses provided by the province for implementing these changes are varied, and this series will explore them in a three-part installment. For now, we delve into the ‘Orca’ excuse.

Some mistakenly refer to the Southern Resident Orca pod as a ‘species,’ ignoring the fact that they are one of many pods, including transient pods which do come in shallow waters, but to feed on seals and not Chinook. This mischaracterization informs policies centered around the survival of one group of orcas.

Excuse 1: “The Southern Resident Orca are starving.” The areas being closed around Port Renfrew are shallow fishing grounds, unsuitable for the Northern and Southern Orca that feed on fish, especially Chinook, diving deep to hunt fish as shallow waters are not ideal. Fishermen, with decades of experience, affirm seeing Southern Killer whales rarely in these spots. In 2023, the fishermen observed one of the largest Chinook runs, suggesting fish quantity and the fishing grounds are not the issue. Sea Lions at river mouths also contribute to predation.
Excuse 2: “A baby from the pod died.” This overfishing argument is rendered moot without addressing pollution. Metals found in the deceased baby’s stomach were also present in its mother’s breast milk. The call for pollution reduction and ocean cleanup is conspicuously absent. Additionally, inbreeding among Southern resident can play a factor in these orca’s health due to their aversion to the Northern resident pod which could be alleviated, according to fishermen, by pairing a northern and a southern orca. However, the ‘no captivity law’ precludes this option.
Excuse 3: “The noise in the ocean.” A significant portion of the noise (69%) comes from BC ferries, 18% from cargo shipping, and 0.6% from recreational fishing.

As we continue on the series to expose flawed science, 30 by 30 agenda, and the NGO’s involved, we will leave you with a letter from the president of the Port Renfrew Chamber:

“ The Honourable Diane Lebouthillier, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard Subject: Proposed 2024/25 Fishing Closures – Port Renfrew – Vancouver Island Dear Minister Lebouthillier, I am writing to you today representing the community of Port Renfrew, British Columbia, situated on the southwest coast of Vancouver Island. Historically, Port Renfrew relied heavily on logging for employment and economic opportunities. However, with the decline in logging activities and the relocation of forestry operations, our once vibrant community faced economic collapse. In response to this downturn, our community embarked on a remarkable journey of economic transformation, pivoting towards tourism as a viable alternative. Central to this transition has been the development of our recreational fishery, which has flourished over the past two decades. Recognizing the potential of our natural resources, our community has invested significantly in infrastructure to support this burgeoning sector, attracting visitors drawn to the exceptional fishing experience that Port Renfrew offers.

The ongoing and untimely discussions surrounding the anticipated actions by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) have sparked profound concerns within our community. The prospect of closing the recreational fishery poses an imminent threat to our economy, endangering numerous livelihoods dependent on this industry. Many businesses in the community have already taken deposits for 2024, to facilitate fishing charters, and accommodations bookings for this year’s fishing season. The fact that we are even engaging in a discussion that has the potential to close another major area of our fishing grounds is creating great harm to this community. Port Renfrew sustains a permanent full time population of approximately 500 individuals including members of the Pacheedaht First Nation. The economic vitality of our community hinges on various local establishments, including restaurants, hotels, general stores, gas stations, post offices, and educational institutions. Moreover, recreational fishing serves as a vital pillar for employment opportunities, sustaining community members in crucial roles such as volunteer firefighters and first responders.

Allow me to outline the economic significance of the recreational fishery to our community.
Estimated conservatively, in one season the recreational charter fishery brings to Port Renfrew about 150 anglers per day for up to 165 days per season. During this season the economic influx of this fishery is approximately: $ 60,000/day on fishing charters, $ 7,500/day on fish processing services, $ 15,000/day on accommodations, $ 9,000/day in local restaurants, $ 6,000/day on gas for their vehicles, $ 5,500/day on groceries and sundries- These numbers are based on recent surveys of our largest restaurant, accommodation, and fishing charter operators. Conservatively, the recreational charter fishery injects at least $103,000 per day into Port Renfrew’s economy. Notably, this estimation excludes the considerable number of visitors who bring their own equipment and do not utilize the services of our recreational charter operators, as well as the non-fishing family and friends that accompany, who spend their days taking advantage of the visitor amenities and businesses ashore. When factoring in these additional groups, our surveys show this sector contributing another $55,000/day.

Consequently, the industry’s overall impact exceeds $158,000/day, totaling $26,070,000 over a 165-day season to just the Port Renfrew area. The projected economic impact of over $26 million annually in the Port Renfrew area does not account for the enduring loss of businesses and job opportunities. These proposed regulations directly jeopardize the livelihoods of over 100 small business owners in the area, potentially forcing them to close permanently. The long-term economic repercussions of these short- sighted regulations are estimated to extend into the hundreds of millions for this region. It is imperative to consider the economic well-being of British Columbians along the BC coast when deliberating on such regulatory measures. We strongly urge the DFO to adopt a truly balanced approach that safeguards both our environment and our economy.

Historically, the DFO have been influenced more by political considerations than by robust scientific principles. These regulations pose a profound threat to small communities throughout British Columbia, with entire towns and numerous families already feeling the adverse effects of these politically influenced decisions. Despite claims of being science-backed and aimed at protecting Southern Resident Killer Whales, the current proposed regulations and the static area closures enacted over the last number of years disregard the DFO’s own research and data. The static closures implemented previously for small recreational vessels have demonstrated negligible effectiveness in safeguarding the Southern Resident Killer Whales in this area or any area where they have been enacted. This strategy has notably impacted the economy of many small communities throughout British Columbia with limited measurable environmental benefits. It is evident that this approach is inherently flawed and warrants careful reconsideration before any further measures are enacted.

The newly proposed area closures are purportedly justified by “predictive spatiotemporal logistic models.” However, significant gaps exist in the support for these models within the wealth of data collected by the DFO. Furthermore, there is a notable absence of new data to support the proposed expansion of closure areas beyond current measures. Predictive modeling typically serves as a recourse when data is lacking; however, in this instance, decades of studies have meticulously tracked the movements of these whales, often on a daily basis.
The insistence on relying solely on predictive modeling appears suspect, potentially aimed at misleading the public. This approach seems more aligned with the agenda of the DFO rather than an accurate reflection of the environmental reality. The DFO possesses viable and effective regulatory alternatives, specifically expanding the “mobile avoidance zones” around Southern Resident Killer Whales during their occasional presence in the Juan De Fuca Strait. This alternative approach has demonstrated efficacy in safeguarding the whales without disproportionately impacting surrounding communities. We strongly urge the DFO to revoke these ineffective static closures entirely, or at the very least refrain from further expanding them. This approach mirrors that of our neighbours to the south in Washington State, where these avoidance zones have been found to be more effective and aligned with the data collected over the same period on the very same whales in question. At times, the DFO has justified these static closures under the pretext of “protecting the food stocks” for the Southern Resident Killer Whales. However, numerous studies have demonstrated ample availability of Chinook Salmon, their primary food source, with stocks greatly exceeding levels necessary for these whales to thrive. Additionally, reports indicate that the elimination of the Recreational Fishery would yield a marginal increase of less than 1% in Chinook abundance. The proposal to institute further closures for the year 2024 appears increasingly untenable, particularly considering recent stock assessments revealing robust Chinook populations. Notably, data from 2023 shows thriving numbers, such as Fraser Summer 4.1 Chinook at 627,000 (exceeding the DFO target of 120,300 by more than fivefold), Lower Fraser Fall Run Chinook at 150,000 (nearly double the DFO target), and Cowichan River Chinook at 21,000 (more than three times the DFO target).

If the genuine interest is indeed the protection of the Southern Resident Killer Whales, then the DFO should prioritize addressing the many environmental factors truly impacting these whales. These include pollutants from road runoff, discharges from water treatment facilities, pinniped population growth, and the massive freighter vessels traveling directly through these same waters to the Port of Vancouver. While solutions to these concerns may be more complex, all scientific data points to their significant detrimental impact. However, the DFO has opted to divert attention to recreational fishing in small rural communities – a simpler and more passive
Target, a target lacking a unified voice. That era has passed. The absurdity of these newly proposed regulations and their punitive nature towards numerous small communities has compelled us to unify our voices and organize our actions. The time for tolerating this situation has come to an end. We will no longer endure this prolonged struggle and the unjust, ill-informed, and punitive regulations being imposed upon us. It is simply unacceptable for a government agency to persist in disregarding the livelihoods of small businesses, undermining families, and destabilizing coastal communities across British Columbia. The DFO must recognize the gravity of their decisions and put an immediate halt to any further discussions of closures in this area. Minister Lebouthillier, we urge you to take decisive action to safeguard our livelihoods and communities. The time for action is now. What we are advocating for are well-informed regulations that not only protect endangered species but also preserve endangered communities.

Thriving Orcas, Thriving Oceans, and Thriving Communities That is what we all want, for many generations to come.
Yours sincerely, Chris Tucker, President – Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce

– A. Richards

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Ken Billings 04/18/2024 - 9:44 PM

Excellent article Adrienne. Sooke has already been devastated. It has been turned by the Mayor and City Council into an overdeveloped bedroom community with Big City traffic along Hwy 14 and sans Fishing Industry in lock step with developer led policies.

Port Renfrew is now prey to the Environmental Scam of ‘Contract a Report You Want Scientism’ (Not Science). The Great Reset (UN Agenda 2030) is a boon doggle to micromanage and monetize all of nature. Herding people into 15 minute cities and taking the land for all the resources they can grab is the name of the game by large Multinationals, the Banking Cabal and the Technocrats and Lame stream media doing their bidding. It is evil and does nothing to help the people who built this country. Do not comply, do not obey or places like Port Renfrew won’t last another day.

Sandra Berrow 05/05/2024 - 3:16 PM

Well said Ken Billings. We are at war like never before and we must fight this tooth and nail. Every which way we can. #DoNotComply


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