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Port Renfrew petition fights fishery closure

Petition targets DFO decision to protect killer whales, salmon stocks
A petition in Port Renfrew is reeling in signatures to fight the closure of a key fishing area. While the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) aims to protect salmon stocks and endangered whales, locals fear the economic impact on their community. (IIlya Marchenko - Shutterstock)

A petition protesting the closure of a critical area of the salmon fishery in Port Renfrew to recreational fishing is casting a wide net.

More than 600 people have signed the petition in response to the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ impending decision to close Area 20 in an effort the DFO says aims to protect salmon stocks and southern resident killer whales.

Charles Borg, a spokesperson for the group behind the petition, said people are “very passionate” about the issue.

“The closure isn’t a done deal yet,” said Borg, a potential candidate for the federal Conservative Party in the next federal election.

“The petition was launched on April 3, and we’re pretty happy with 606 signatures. We’re moving on expediting it and hope for between 1,000 and 2,000 signatures before the petition closes on May 3.

Borg said while most of those he’s spoken to are well-informed of what’s involved and recognize the need to preserve salmon stocks and protect the southern resident killer whale population, they agree other methods are available that won’t severely impact Port Renfrew’s economy.

“From my experience, only a very minute number of people support the closure,” Borg said.

Chris Tucker, president of the Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce, expressed the community’s “profound concerns” with the proposed closure in a Feb. 27 letter to federal Fisheries Minister Diane Lebouthellier.

He estimated the economic impact of the closure during the peak 165-day season at more than $26 million.

Tucker said that money is crucial to supporting Port Renfrew’s full-time population of about 500 people, which includes the Pacheedaht Nation.

Chris Bos, president of the South Vancouver Island Anglers Association, said many opportunities to catch chinook salmon in southern British Columbia are lost “for no good reason,” and salmon anglers are growing increasingly frustrated with the current management of salmon fisheries.

A spokesperson for the DFO said the final decision on closures will be based on criteria that include the benefit to southern resident killer whales, scientific justification and integration of Indigenous rights and knowledge, ease of implementation, and socio-economic impacts.

ALSO READ: Proposed fishing closures threaten Port Renfrew’s economy: chamber

About the Author: Rick Stiebel

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