–Mike Hicks, Regional Director, Juan de Fuca electoral area
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has released an “Action Plan” to protect the habitat of the Southern Resident Orca population.
That plan can be viewed online here, and interested or concerned residents are encouraged to comment by August 14.
In my capacity as Regional Director of the Juan de Fuca, I have asked to be fully consulted before any implementation of this plan proceeds and the CRD Board has followed suit.
Although I support any measure to enhance the Orca survival rate, I question if severe closures and restrictions in the Salish Sea only will ensure success. A coast-wide balanced approach in regards to Chinook harvest and a Federal Government commitment to aggressive Chinook enhancement programs would be, in my view preferable.
Here is my response to the Department of Fisheries:
July 12, 2016 Director SARA Directorate Department of Fisheries and Oceans 200 Kent St. Ottawa, ON K1A 0E6 Director, The Capital Regional District, situated on Southern Vancouver Island is home to thousands of recreational fishers, commercial whale watching operators, and the Pacheedaht, T’Sou-ke, Scia'new, Esquimalt, Songhees, Tsartlip, Tsawout, Tseycum, Pauquachin, Malahat and Penelakut First Nations. Two chinook hatcheries are located in the CRD in the San Juan River and the Sooke River. The Action Plan for the Northern and Southern Resident Killer Whale document, although well intentioned is potentially disastrous for our residents and First Nations. Some of the measures that are of potential concern include: #6 – Investigate strategic fishery closures as a possible tool to reduce Resident Killer Whale Prey competition in specific feeding areas #7 – Investigate the use and implementation of protected areas and/or fishery closures as tools to protect important foraging and beach rubbing locations #26 – Assess the potential impact of salmon enhancement and aquaculture operations on Resident Killer Whales, both directly and through effects on wild salmon populations, and develop actions to mitigate such effects, should impacts be detected. #49 - Evaluate and revise whale watching guidelines and/or regulations to reflect most recent understanding of effects of chronic physical disturbance. #50 - Evaluate the efficacy of a license program and conditions for commercial whale watching as a means of mitigating potential disturbance (e.g., training standards for boat operators and naturalists, number and/or type of vessels, standard of practice). Although our constituents are 100% supportive of enhancing the life and survival of our Southern Vancouver Island Killer Whales, we are hoping to maintain a balance that does not result in undue hardships to our lives. The proposed action plan and measures have the potential to affect the coastal waters from Port Renfrew to the Southern Gulf Islands and the Swiftsure Bank to the Fraser River. It could affect all whale watching businesses, First Nations, recreational and commercial fishers, salmon enhancement volunteers and the socio-economic wellbeing of the Capital Regional District. Our residents and First Nations will be affected more than any region in Canada and I request that the Capital Regional District be included in all consultations with your department and all decisions before any implementation of this plan goes forward. Sincerely, Mike Hicks Regional Director Juan de Fuca Electoral Area Capital Regional District