Members of 17 Vancouver Island-based Chambers of Commerce gathered in Esquimalt on Dec. 6 to talk about how an extension of protected whale habitat would affect coastal communities. (Keili Bartlett/News staff)

B.C. businesses concerned over potential economic loss if whale habitat extended

Marine-based tourism generates more than $1.2 billion to B.C.’s economy each year

The day after the federal government announced a 5,025-square kilometre extension of critical whale habitat off the coast of Vancouver Island, tourists have already begun canceling planned vacations, the president of the B.C. Chamber of Commerce said.

On Dec. 6, members of 17 chambers of commerce — calling themselves Thriving Orcas, Thriving Coastal Communities — joined forces in Esquimalt to talk about the potential effects such an extension would have on humans.

“Businesses could close, jobs could be lost, tourism would stall. And the spin-off economic loses would be felt across British Columbia,” Val Litwin, the president and CEO of the B.C. Chamber of Commerce, said. “The effects of all this uncertainty are already being felt with cancellations and fewer bookings coming from tourists that typically plan their trips to B.C. months in advance.”

READ MORE: Federal government announces new measures for killer whale protection

Marine-based tourism such as recreational fishing and whale watching on Vancouver Island generates more than $1.2 billion to B.C.’s economy each year, he said, adding that the communities’ volunteer base, tax revenue, transportation and trickle-down businesses could also be impacted.

Darren Wright, the co-owner of Island Outfitters Ltd. in Victoria and a member of chambers in Victoria and Port Renfrew, said it’s important to point out that fishing closures have not been announced. He’s heard from concerned customers, but said the government has only designated critical habitat — “Nobody has said they’re closing anything. What they’re doing in that area, we don’t know that yet. We’re hoping the government makes the right decision.”

A closure would put him and many others out of business, Wright added. For his company alone, 25 people would be out of work.

“Why else would a person go to Port Renfrew?” Wright asked.

As for the whales, Wright asked what a healthy population of Southern Resident orcas would look like if the current population is 74 — four whales shy of the healthy estimate, with three pregnant whales to boot.

Although critical of the extension, it was stressed that the coalition supports both killer whales and coastal communities, many of whom converted from forestry and logging industries to tourism. Together, the 17 members of Island-based chambers represent more than 3,000 businesses.

“As people who work on the water every day and depend on strong fishing and tourism sectors to earn a living and feed their families, no one recognizes the importance of protecting marine habitats and marine life more than the men and women in coastal communities,” Litwin said.

Although Litwin said their members were invited by the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, Jonathan Wilkinson, to provide feedback in October, the extension was outlined on Dec. 5 for La Perouse and Swiftsure banks, extending north past Ucluelet and 60-kilometres out to sea. The zone for Northern and Southern Resident Killer whales adds to the area in the Juan de Fuca Strait, designated in 2009.

Jen Dart, the executive director of the Tofino-Long Beach Chamber of Commerce, offered management suggestions that would suit all residents, whales and humans alike.

“As the federal government now works to define how best to manage the expanded critical habitat zone, our goal is that together we can develop more measured and science-based approaches that incorporate extensive research and scientific best practices, effective avoidance protocols, the expertise of leading marine institution researchers as well as generations of Indigenous and local knowledge,” Dart said.

READ MORE: Off-road vehicles caught in sensitive B.C. wildlife habitats to net $575 fine


@KeiliBartlett
keili.bartlett@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

 

Val Litwin, the president and CEO of the B.C. Chamber of Commerce, said marine-based tourism on Vancouver Island generates more than $1.2 billion to B.C.’s economy every year. (Keili Bartlett/News staff)

Karl Ablack, the vice president of the Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce, spoke about how the new critical habitat zone off Vancouver Island would affect volunteer numbers. (Keili Bartlett/News staff)

Ryan Chamberland, the president of the Sooke Regional Tourism Association and owner of Vancouver Island Lodge, said his company has already felt the impacts. (Keili Bartlett/News staff)

Just Posted

Affordable rental housing complex opens in Courtenay

The Braidwood facility will house 34 people at risk of homelessness

Applications open for record bursary, scholarship funding at North Island College

Current and future North Island College students can now apply for scholarships… Continue reading

Second Stage Players present laughter and love in We Are Family

Get your tickets early to see the Evergreen Club’s Second Stage Players’… Continue reading

Open house opens access for those suffering from vision loss

Pat Chicquen understands how isolating losing vision can be, which is why… Continue reading

Valley SPCA overwhelmed with 45 cats taken from local property

Many of the cats have never been around humans, or have never been touched or handled.

VIDEO: Restaurant robots are already in Canada

Robo Sushi in Toronto has waist-high robots that guide patrons to empty seats

Comox Valley Hospice Society finds new Ocean Front home

Comox Valley Hospice Society (CVHS) recently announced plans to construct a new… Continue reading

Trucker who caused Broncos crash likely to be deported: lawyer

The Crown has asked that Sidhu serve 10 years in prison

China chemical plant blast kills 47, injures hundreds more

This is one of China’s worst industrial accidents in recent years

Montreal priest stabbed while celebrating morning mass

The incident happened Friday morning at Montreal’s St. Joseph’s Oratory

Organic Matters tea recalled across B.C. due to Salmonella

Recall for OM tea products is B.C. wide, possibly national.

Permit rejected to bring two cheetahs to B.C.

Earl Pfeifer owns two cheetahs, one of which escaped in December 2015

Real-life tsunami threat in Port Alberni prompts evacuation updates

UBC study says some people didn’t recognize the emergency signal

Care providers call for B.C. seniors’ watchdog to step down

The association also asks the province to conduct an audit and review of the mandate of her office

Most Read