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

Jumbo Valley to be protected, ending decades-long dispute over proposed ski resort

Development rights permanently retired for site of proposed year-round ski resort west of Invermere

Nelson Leafs lose to Dynamiters 4-3 in overtime

The game got off to a bizarre start early in the first period

On the job hunt with Nelson’s Make A Change Canada

The employment charity is organizing next week’s Kootenay Patricks, Montreal Canadiens game

FedEx distribution centre coming to Castlegar

Development permit for ground facility before council next week.

Heart, minds, and 100 years of the Nelson library

Past and future collide this year at the Nelson library, and it all kicks off this weekend

VIDEO: Cold snap brings ideal conditions for Okanagan icewine

Take an inside look at how icewine is made

Prince Harry, Meghan to give up ‘royal highness’ titles

‘Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much loved members of my family,’ says Queen Elizabeth II

B.C. society calls out conservation officer after dropping off bear cub covered in ice

Ice can be seen in video matted into emaciated bear cub’s fur

Calls for dialogue as Coastal GasLink pipeline polarizes some in northern B.C.

Coastal GasLink is building the 670-kilometre pipeline from British Columbia’s northeast to Kitimat on the coast

Closed mills, housing surge support a positive forecast for lumber industries

B.C. lumber producers have closed mills accounting for 18% of province’s capacity, RBC report says

Good Samaritan pays part of rent for B.C. woman facing eviction in can-collecting dispute

Zora Hlevnjak, 76, supplements her pension by collecting cans and receiving public donations

Kelowna’s ‘Baby Mary’ finds biological parents after more than 30 years

Geneologist and DNA test helped her connect with her biological parents

Kelowna hotel to award couples for baby-making with Nooner deal

The deal includes a free stay every Valentine’s Day for the next 18 years

‘Scariest boat ride of my life’: Passengers trapped by ice on rocky B.C. ferry sailing

The Nimpkish docked in Bella Coola on Jan.12 coated in a thick layer of ice

Most Read