The fishing restrictions imposed by the federal Fisheries Department this spring has already had a devastating effect on businesses, according to a survey conducted by the Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce.
Those regulations have severely restricted the sport fishery in the region, and include the closure of the commercial fishery until Aug. 20 (the usual start date is in June), the overall recreational fishery limited to 10 chinook per person and First Nations chinook fishing restricted until July 15.
That survey has prompted Rob Alcock of the Sport Fishing Insitute of B.C. to take to YouTube to urge his fellow residents to reach out to their elected officials to voice their concern about the partial closures of the fisheries.
He has also left viewers who share his point of view with a message: “Do not forget” what was done when election time rolls around.
It’s the second video posted by Alcock, with the first published on May 8.
In this video, published on June 5, Alcock cited alarming survey results that show that 71 per cent of the tourist-based businesses in Port Renfrew have experienced cancellations and 46 percent say that their future business is in serious danger. Twenty-seven percent say they will have to close their businesses.
Ian Vantrieght, who operates a vacation rental business in Shirley and Port Renfrew, has seen the video and is supportive of Alcock’s message.
“Right now my bookings are down 32 per cent from last year,” Vantrieght said.
“I hold out very little hope that the DFO (Department of Fisheries and Oceans) will change its approach. They’ve turned a deaf ear to anything presented by concerned parties and have made a political decision rather than one based on scientific facts.”
He added that everyone agrees they want the (chinook) stocks back, but maintains the Fisheries Department has ignored hatcheries and failing to support them at the level they deserve.
“They go after low hanging fruit, but that’s going to do bugger all as far as improving fish stocks,” said Vantrieght.
Karl Ablack, the vice-president of the Sooke Region Chamber of Commerce, said the figures presented in Alcock’s video are an accurate account of the chamber’s survey, but stressed his organization had no role in producing the video.
“We are in dialogue with the DFO and we don’t want to close any doors,” Ablack said.
“That dialogue is important. If we hadn’t been talking we might have seen the same sort of total ban on fin-fish (including coho and halibut) that we had last year.”
Aback added that one point of negotiation still underway is the retention of hatchery clipped fish. That sort of regulation would allow anglers to keep fish that had been hatchery-raised, allowing wild stocks to recover while not shutting down the fishery.
Black Press reached out to the Fisheries Department.