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HomeGuest PostsOpinion: We and the Whales Need an Avoidance Strategy, Not Area Closures

Opinion: We and the Whales Need an Avoidance Strategy, Not Area Closures


Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKW) and Anglers Background

In yet another round of consultation regarding Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKW) recovery, the SFI and SFAB are at the table discussing new proposals for the 2023 season. What is evidently an annual review process results in uncertainty, instability, and anxiety for each of the small coastal communities that depend on predictable fishing related tourism.

Annual area closures aren’t being assessed for benefit to SRKW but are dismantling local economies and culture.

2019 DFO Public Meeting in Sooke. Locals express frustrations about area closures for “Whale Sanctuaries” that had no effect on the whales, but destroyed local business, culture, tourism, and livelihoods.

Implementation of an annual process that does not seem to bring any new or relevant information yet proposes additional restrictions undermines the social, cultural, and economic fabric of communities that are reliant on the recreational fishery for their wellbeing. Entire communities like Port Renfrew, or in areas that have already been severely restricted or had fishing closures imposed like that in and around Vancouver, continue to suffer the compounding effects of stacking layers of unproven fishery management measures.

SFI Article June 2019:

Jeremy Maynard June, 2018:

DFO is ignoring the facts; A stable SRKW population and plenty of salmon in the Salish Sea

These new proposals ignore the fact that the SRKW population is currently stable, and that prey availability has been proven not to be the issue it was once thought to be. Please see this article for 2021:

In both US and Canadian waters studies show that the abundance of Chinook during the periods that SRKW are present are between 11 and 22 times necessary to satisfy nutritional requirements of the whales:

Public Reports

Washington Department of Fish and Game regarding the Salish Sea (PDF Download): Fishery Effects on SRKW – Jan 28, 2019

UBC Press Release (PDF Download): No apparent shortage of prey for Southern Resident Killer Whales – October 12, 2021

SFI Recommendations

Avoid Whales and New Experiments

Rather than continue to experiment at the expense of predictability and recovery benefits to SRKW, now would be a time to ensure that relevant assessments of the existing measures take place and that the effectiveness of the measures in aiding in SRKW recovery is determined.

A pause in adjustments, changes, or additions to SRKW measures will also reduce the cycle of uncertainty and anxiety created in coastal communities on what is now an annual basis. Focus should turn to determining what is effective, or not, here, and what is working, or not, in adjacent Washington state waters to benefit SRKW recovery.

Canada Should Follow the US Model

BC would do well to follow the lead of Washington State, who have addressed the challenges of improving the environment around a mobile species like SRKW and their equally mobile prey.

Be Whale Wise.

Rather than implement static sanctuary areas they focus instead on applying consistent, effective avoidance zones for ALL small vessels that may disrupt foraging and other important activities for SRKW.  WA State are currently considering legislation to establish 1000-yard avoidance bubble zones for all vessels.

(Canada’s) Static Sanctuaries Make No Sense

BC’s spatial measures may look good on a map, but on the water and observing whales along our coast, it is clear that SRKW and all whale movement is challenging to predict. The BC areas set aside for the SRKW are rarely used. It is our hope that sufficient, consistently enforced, and effective mobile sanctuaries or dynamic avoidance zones, are implemented to allow whales room to feed, socialize and reproduce wherever and whenever they are in BC waters.

2022 DFO Measures, click above map for details of areas

DFO’s 2023 SKRW Proposals Survey Assumes Your Support!

The flawed process that is now unfolding annually regardless of the quality, applicability, or quantity of new information available, has unfortunately included announcement of a biased survey.

The 2023 survey, like the one released in 2018, is leading, and offers participants only a choice of support rather than options to object or raise concerns. And the approach to establish avoidance zones or an “avoidance bubble” strategy is nowhere to be seen. We encourage anglers to participate in the DFO survey and to comment in the space provided for each option, with support for an avoidance zone of at least 400 m for all small vessels as an effective strategy and alternative to fixed spatial closures.

2022 Included closure of portion of Subarea 29-3 from August 1 to September 30
2023 proposed increase in Vancouver (and other ares) Closures

What Can Anglers Do? Survey Closes Feb 19, 2023

Make sure your voice is heard – Anglers need to speak up and take the survey. While the survey offers only two choices for DFO proposed options:

  1. Keep it the same as last year
  2. Close more areas

Comment Field

The recently added comment field is the place to provide your opinion. Once you make your forced selection, please make sure to add some remarks about support for an avoidance bubble instead.

Question 1 Which one of these proposed fishing closure options

As in the screenshot above of Question 1, when you select an option, you’ll see a place under each question to provide a remark (Circled in red on the screenshot)—suggest a dynamic avoidance zone strategy instead of static sanctuary zones.

Before it closes, February 19th, 2023, anglers should participating in this survey and use the comment field.

About opinion articles:

This article is an opinion article, and prepared by the author mentioned above. Island Fisherman magazine welcomes opinion articles for publishing consideration. The views expressed by the writers of opinion articles are their own, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Island Fisherman magazine, or Compass Media Publishing, Inc. Therefore, Island Fisherman magazine carries no responsibility or liability for the opinion expressed thereon. While we welcome comments on any article, abusive, antisocial or off-topic comments will be deleted.

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