Hungry Orcas Might Shut Down Part of Strait of Juan de Fuca in Canada

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Orcas are on the decline along the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada has proposed a solution — to ban all sport fishing from Sheringham Point to East Point on an experimental basis from May through September 2018.

Fisheries managers claim the initiative would help maintain Chinook salmon populations in essential feeding areas for southern resident Orcas that rely on Chinook salmon to survive.

Lots of people disagree with this Draconian measure. According to Ryan Chamberland, owner of Vancouver Island Lodge near Sooke. He says only 2% of recreational caught salmon is attributed to the Orca’s diet.

Sooke currently pen raises 500,000 Chinook smolt to be released in the Strait, which should help feed the Orcas. Sooke sports anglers say they are doing something to help the Orcas. A sport fishing ban would in fact cost millions of dollars to the British Columbia economy impacting not just sports anglers but dozens of related businesses including lodges, guides, tackle shops, motels, restaurants etc.

Sooke and other local anglers have proposed a bubble zone to DFO fisheries managers. Their plan would mandate sports anglers to move when Orcas go near certain fishing areas in order to give Orcas a clear and quiet zone to feed on salmon.

This sounds all warm and fuzzy, but I can tell you from experience, Orcas don’t much care if anglers are in the area and will continue feeding if there’s salmon there. And while this possible months long closure would save such small numbers of potential Orca food, halibut anglers would be prevented from fishing simply because DFO fisheries managers want to save a few salmon. This, my friends is a slippery slope that makes non anglers “feel good.” In reality it won’t save Orcas.

The real solution is seal and sea lion control. These pennipeds are record high numbers and eat far more salmon than recreational anglers catch. Let’s ban them from eating salmon.

Some have also suggested moving the no fishing boundary in the Strait of Juan de Fuca from French Beach to Sombrio Beach.

By taking a couple kilometers here or there we can preserve those recreational fishery values while still playing a major role for southern resident killer whales,” said Director of Business development for the sports fishing institute of B.C. Martin Paish.

The DFO is taking feedback at ashley.dobko@dfo-mpo.gc.ca

About John L. Beath

John Beath is a writer, photographer, videographer, blogger, tackle manufacturer & Captain at Whaler's Cove Lodge in Southeast Alaska. He is also owner of www.halibut.net and host at Lets Talk Outdoors @ www.youtube.com/jbeath
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