Members of 17 Vancouver Island-based Chambers of Commerce gathered in Esquimalt on Dec. 6 to talk about how an extension of protected whale habitat would affect coastal communities. (Keili Bartlett/News staff)

B.C. businesses concerned over potential economic loss if whale habitat extended

Marine-based tourism generates more than $1.2 billion to B.C.’s economy each year

The day after the federal government announced a 5,025-square kilometre extension of critical whale habitat off the coast of Vancouver Island, tourists have already begun canceling planned vacations, the president of the B.C. Chamber of Commerce said.

On Dec. 6, members of 17 chambers of commerce — calling themselves Thriving Orcas, Thriving Coastal Communities — joined forces in Esquimalt to talk about the potential effects such an extension would have on humans.

“Businesses could close, jobs could be lost, tourism would stall. And the spin-off economic loses would be felt across British Columbia,” Val Litwin, the president and CEO of the B.C. Chamber of Commerce, said. “The effects of all this uncertainty are already being felt with cancellations and fewer bookings coming from tourists that typically plan their trips to B.C. months in advance.”

READ MORE: Federal government announces new measures for killer whale protection

Marine-based tourism such as recreational fishing and whale watching on Vancouver Island generates more than $1.2 billion to B.C.’s economy each year, he said, adding that the communities’ volunteer base, tax revenue, transportation and trickle-down businesses could also be impacted.

Darren Wright, the co-owner of Island Outfitters Ltd. in Victoria and a member of chambers in Victoria and Port Renfrew, said it’s important to point out that fishing closures have not been announced. He’s heard from concerned customers, but said the government has only designated critical habitat — “Nobody has said they’re closing anything. What they’re doing in that area, we don’t know that yet. We’re hoping the government makes the right decision.”

A closure would put him and many others out of business, Wright added. For his company alone, 25 people would be out of work.

“Why else would a person go to Port Renfrew?” Wright asked.

As for the whales, Wright asked what a healthy population of Southern Resident orcas would look like if the current population is 74 — four whales shy of the healthy estimate, with three pregnant whales to boot.

Although critical of the extension, it was stressed that the coalition supports both killer whales and coastal communities, many of whom converted from forestry and logging industries to tourism. Together, the 17 members of Island-based chambers represent more than 3,000 businesses.

“As people who work on the water every day and depend on strong fishing and tourism sectors to earn a living and feed their families, no one recognizes the importance of protecting marine habitats and marine life more than the men and women in coastal communities,” Litwin said.

Although Litwin said their members were invited by the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, Jonathan Wilkinson, to provide feedback in October, the extension was outlined on Dec. 5 for La Perouse and Swiftsure banks, extending north past Ucluelet and 60-kilometres out to sea. The zone for Northern and Southern Resident Killer whales adds to the area in the Juan de Fuca Strait, designated in 2009.

Jen Dart, the executive director of the Tofino-Long Beach Chamber of Commerce, offered management suggestions that would suit all residents, whales and humans alike.

“As the federal government now works to define how best to manage the expanded critical habitat zone, our goal is that together we can develop more measured and science-based approaches that incorporate extensive research and scientific best practices, effective avoidance protocols, the expertise of leading marine institution researchers as well as generations of Indigenous and local knowledge,” Dart said.

READ MORE: Off-road vehicles caught in sensitive B.C. wildlife habitats to net $575 fine


@KeiliBartlett
keili.bartlett@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

 

Val Litwin, the president and CEO of the B.C. Chamber of Commerce, said marine-based tourism on Vancouver Island generates more than $1.2 billion to B.C.’s economy every year. (Keili Bartlett/News staff)

Karl Ablack, the vice president of the Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce, spoke about how the new critical habitat zone off Vancouver Island would affect volunteer numbers. (Keili Bartlett/News staff)

Ryan Chamberland, the president of the Sooke Regional Tourism Association and owner of Vancouver Island Lodge, said his company has already felt the impacts. (Keili Bartlett/News staff)

Just Posted

Kuu-us Crisis Line Society kicks off 21st annual Festival of Trees

26 Port Alberni businesses will decorate trees on Dec. 9 for festival

Sproat Lake residents call for more control over growth

Residents ask Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District to crack down on bylaws

Port Alberni’s John Jack joins First Nations LNG Alliance

Jack represents Huu-ay-aht First Nations’ Kwispaa LNG project

Property assessments to rise again on Vancouver Island

Some areas could see their assessments spike as much as 20 per cent

Lawyer for Chinese exec detained by Canada says it’s ‘inconceivable’ she would flee

Meng Wanzhou was detained at the request of the U.S. during a layover at the Vancouver airport

Omar Khadr to ask for Canadian passport to travel, permission to speak to sister

He spent years in U.S. detention at Guantanamo Bay after he was caught when he was 15

One of Tori Stafford’s killers transferred to medium-security prison

Michael Rafferty was sentenced to life in prison in 2012 in the kidnapping, sexual assault and first-degree murder of Tori Stafford

‘Abhorrent’ condition of autistic B.C. boy shows flaws in care system: report

‘Charlie’ was underweight and ‘covered in feces’ when he was removed from his mom’s care

Military closes book on oft-criticized support unit for ill, injured troops

The transition unit will provide support and services to military members struggling with physical and mental injuries so they can return to work.

Vancouver Canucks rookie Elias Pettersson named NHL’s first star of the week

Canucks centre scored two goals and six assists in three games

Protester says Canada doing U.S. ‘dirty work’ outside Huawei exec’s bail hearing

The U.S. wants to extradite Meng to face fraud allegations after Canada arrested the high-profile technology executive.

Union says arrows and gasoline tossed at striking Comox Valley assisted living workers

BCGEU president Stephanie Smith says arrows and gasoline were thrown at the picketers early in the week

Most Read