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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

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

Maple Ridge Mounties hope someone recognizes this vandal

At least 25 vehicles were damaged overnight Saturday to Sunday in a north Maple Ridge neighbourhood

Pitt Meadows film premiere offers hope to people with learning disabilities

In Normal Isn’t Real four subjects who have learning disabilities and ADHD, share their success stories

Marching for those who’ve disappeared

Fifth annual event in Memorial Peace Park

Letter: Other cities have declared climate emergencies

Maple Ridge should do what’s right for our planet

Elementary students are hoping the city will recognize Real Acts of Caring week

Pitt Meadows students participate in Real Acts of Caring week

VIDEO: Ottawa wants quick, peaceful resolution to pipeline protests, Trudeau says

The protests have manifested themselves as blockades on different rail lines across the country

VIDEO: Giants win 10th straight on home ice in Langley

Family Day was about spending time with the fans and dazzling them with a 3-2 victory over Seattle

Canucks acquire forward Tyler Toffoli from Kings in push for playoffs

Vancouver sends Schaller, Madden, pick to L.A.

New highway proposed between Alberta and B.C.

The route would connect Red Deer to Kamloops

Wet’suwet’en and B.C. government have been talking Aboriginal title for a year

Coastal GasLink says it has agreements with all 20 elected First Nations councils along the 670-kilometre route

Trudeau tightlipped on plan to end protests ‘quickly and peacefully’

The prime minister, who cancelled a two-day trip to Barbados this week to deal with the crisis at home

B.C. budget expected to stay the course as economic growth moderates

Finance minister said ICBC costs have affected budget

Canadian standards for coronavirus protection to be reviewed, health agency says

The protocols set out how health workers should protect themselves and their patients

Monday marks one-year anniversary of man missing from Langley

42-year-old B.C. man, Searl Smith, was last seen leaving Langley Memorial Hospital on Feb. 17, 2019

Most Read