Looking at policies that support the Island’s salmon population while acknowledging the fishing-related economy is a priority, according to New Democrat Party leader Jagmeet Singh and Cowichan-Malahat-Langford MP Alistair MacGregor.
“We have to acknowledge how rough it is for lots of folks,” Singh said Tuesday after he took questions from Belmont Secondary School students in Langford. “[Fishing] is fundamentally a part of life, there’s lots of jobs and tourism that come from it so acknowledging that is a priority.”
Singh said he recently spent time in northwestern B.C. and met with many people that rely on fishing as a way of life. He said recognizing that is important. However, he also said looking at strategies to get fish habitats back to a place of abundance is important as well.
MacGregor said Port Renfrew — a large portion of his riding — is a town that really depends on the sport fishing industry for tourism.
“People come from all over the world to see some of the best salmon fishing that’s on offer so naturally they are concerned with what is going on,” MacGregor said. “But … one of the key priorities we have to concentrate on is salmon habitat restoration.”
MacGregor said local groups are working hard to improve fish habitats and said the government should recognize what is being done. He added the government should look at other factors that are affecting habitats.
“The sport fishers have contributed a lot of their own personal resources to releasing hatchery fish into the water,” MacGregor said. “We need the feds to actually look at the habitat the salmon are using to spawn because there are a lot of contaminated sites, a lot of rivers that have been impacted by industrial human activity.”
Last May, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans announced a recreational fishing closure for all fin-fish in the area from Otter Point to East Point on the eastern entrance of Port San Juan.
The ban took place from June 1 to Sept. 30.
Local officials and fishers called the ban a devastating blow to the Sooke region.
The ban was put in place because lack of prey was affecting the Southern Resident killer whale population. The population has only 76 members.
This year, DFO is considering expanding that ban further up the coast towards Tofino and Ucluelet.
Mandy Ludlow, a fishery officer and detachment supervisor with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, said the department is currently unsure as to whether or not they’ll put the ban in place again next year.
Ludlow said the department is currently consulting with stakeholders to determine whether or not the fishery closures were effective and compare the effectiveness to the community impact.
“We’re going to spend the next period of time collecting info on the value of that — if we saved any chinook or helped killer whales,” Ludlow said. “It will be evaluated at the minister level prior to next season.”
With files from Kevin Laird.