Anglers protest possible closure

David Wiwchar

Anglers and fishing guides from throughout Vancouver Island converged on the Barclay Hotel last night, to face off against Federal Fisheries and Oceans managers who are looking to close a large fishing area at the entrance to Barkley Sound.
DFO argued the area from long beach down to Sooke, including Swiftsure and La Parouse Banks, are critical habitat for the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales.
While all agreed that the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales were in need of protection, they accused Fisheries and Oceans of looking for the easy way out, by proposing marine sanctuaries.
Well known island angler Gary Cooper says the Killer Whales are sick, not starving, but he fears DFO has already made their minds up to close a large area off Barkley Sound instead of looking into the actual cause.
Many involved in the sports fishing industry pointed to pollution from the Fraser River and an explosion in seal and sea lion populations for being factors in the drop in Southern Resident Killer Whale numbers.
Courtenay – Alberni MP Gord Johns said he forced the government to host public consultation sessions on the west coast, instead of their planned 30-day online survey on the issue, and he wants to make sure they listen to what local experts are telling them.
Many of the anglers who spoke said they have never seen Orcas at La Parouse Bank in their 35 to 45 years of fishing there, and said if DFO is concerned about the whales starving from a lack of Chinook salmon, they should invest in salmon enhancement and habitat restoration.
Another meeting will be held in Ucluelet tonight, before a report and recommendations are brought to the fisheries minister sometime next month.