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

Surrey-based group maps places to find affordable food

Surrey and White Rock Food Coalition targets food security

Youth and seniors learn from each other

Seniors Health Network launches intergenerational program in White Rock

Volunteer Cancer Drivers Society raises $8,000

Donations collected at Christmas event last week

Realtor blanket drive collects 360 bags of clothing

Annual event helps South Surrey and White Rock residents in need

VIDEO: Hundreds of volunteers collect, wrap toys in Surrey at Sikh elementary school

Guru Nanak Free Kitchen, Sikh Academy partner together on annual toy drive

MAP: Christmas light displays in Surrey, Langley and beyond

Send us pictures of your National Lampoon-style lit-up homes, nativity scenes or North Pole playlands

Trudeau lashes out at Conservatives over migration “misinformation”

Warning against the “dangers of populism,” Trudeau says using immigration as a wedge political issue puts Canada’s future at risk.

B.C. hockey coach creates ‘gear library’ to remove cost barrier of sport

Todd Hickling gathered donations and used gear to remove the cost barrier for kids to play hockey.

VIDEO: Giants fall to Royals 4-2 in Victoria Saturday night

Second loss in as many days for G-Men, who are back home in Langley today to take on the Cougars.

Canada’s ambassador meets with second detainee in China

Global Affairs says John McCallum, Canada’s ambassador to China, met with Spavor Sunday

‘They’re coming:’ Flying cars may appear in urban skies by 2023

Air taxis will number 15,000 and become a global market worth $32 billion by 2035

B.C. VIEWS: Andrew Wilkinson on taxes, ICBC and union changes

Opposition leader sees unpredictable year ahead in 2019

5 tips for self-care, mental wellness this holiday season

Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions urging British Columbians to prioritize self care through festive season

Rescued B.C. cat with misshapen legs in need of forever home – with carpet

Mirielle was born with misshapen back legs and after a tough life on the streets, is looking for a forever home.

Most Read