It was only a matter of time before a recreational fishing group decided to take the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) to court. Frustration has been building over recent years specifically over the way DFO has consulted and implemented significant recreational fishery regulations to protect Chinook, and Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKW). The issue has finally come to a head in Port Renfrew. The issue was recently covered by CHEK TV News and featured as the lead story on the front page of the July 16th Victoria Times Colonist newspaper. The BC Recreational Fishing Association has set up a Go Fund Me campaign to cover legal expenses.
According to Chris Tucker, President of the Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce and managing partner of Wild Coast Wilderness Resort, “The frequency of government regulation changes without proper notice significantly impacts the industry’s ability to operate effectively. This unpredictable approach is deemed unreasonable, and the government body should be held accountable for its actions”.
This decision was not taken lightly. In February 2023 the Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce, in response to proposed Southern Resident Killer Whale regulations that would add to restrictive measures already in effect, drafted a response that was forwarded to Kendra Moore, DFO’s acting Regional Manager-Marine Mammals (click here for the letter).
The document essentially put DFO on notice. If the science that supported the proposals for further restrictions to protect these whales was not provided to the Chamber of Commerce they would be left with no other options but to proceed with legal action against DFO, because of the lack of prior adequate consultation with the community. That letter also included an invitation to join in a collaborative approach towards SRKW protection in the Port Renfrew area.
Tidal BC Recreational Communities
Peak season recreational fisheries are often located in small coastal communities where recreational fishing is a mainstay of the summer tourism economy. In order for these fisheries to be sustainable those who operate fishing related businesses must know months in advance what kind of fishery they can expect. The BC Recreational Fishing Association wants DFO to understand that reasonable certainty is essential in order to secure inventory for fishing service shops, and book guests for lodge and charter trips in a highly competitive tourism market. Furthermore, uncertainty damages reputations that have been developed over time and at considerable expense.
Port Renfrew is not an isolated case. Business stability was identified over forty years ago in Turning the Tide, the official record of the Peter Pearse 1982 Royal Commission on West Coast Fisheries, as an essential component in sustaining highly valuable recreational fisheries.
The organizers are not opposed to science based Chinook recovery strategies, but continue to stress they must have sufficient lead time to plan for regulation changes prior to booking customers. The same situation applies to fishing bans, and other regulations imposed by DFO ostensibly to protect Southern Resident Killer Whales. The combination of these actions has hit Port Renfrew particularly hard.
Port Renfrew is located on the south west coast of Vancouver Island between Sooke and Barkley Sound. It has always depended on fishing for its survival, however commercial fishing has declined substantially in recent decades. The community is now heavily reliant on direct benefits from tourist anglers.
BC Recreational Fishing Association
A group of local business owners, fishing guides and anglers have come together to form the BC Recreational Fishing Association. The association’s founding members are building a board of directors and are planning to reach out to recreational fishing industry leaders and organization across BC.
The BC Recreational Fishing Association says their goals are to, “Create a unified voice encompassing all coastal communities on the north, central and south coasts of BC including Vancouver Island”, and to “raise the necessary funds to engage the DFO in a legal challenge over their lack of transparency and untimely process”.
The BC Recreational Fishing Association state they, “Seek stability in the industry and regulations that are announced at least 12 months in advance of implementation”. They also seek “regulations based on transparent and accurate science”. This groups stresses that they, “Support the protection of Fraser River Chinook salmon, SRKW’s and other endangered species. However that protection must be achieved through meaningful, transparent, science based consultation that incorporates balanced measures to support both endangered species and endangered coastal communities”.
Media and other inquires to the BC Recreational Fishing Association can be made to: