Cowichan Bay fisherman Lance Underwood has concerns with plans to set up marine protected areas off the coast of Vancouver Island and B.C. Pictured is Underwood (right) posing with a colleague in a recent photo. (Submitted photo)

Marine protected areas not all good, says Vancouver Island fisherman

Lance Underwood fears for local fisheries

Lance Underwood has come to the conclusion that the federal government’s plans for new marine protected areas are not as advertised.

Underwood, a fisherman in Cowichan Bay on Vancouver Island, sits on the advisory panel for the creation of the marine protected areas and has many concerns about the need for them on the west coast, and their implications for the fisheries.

“We are now approaching the year 2020, and after two years of engaging with government and environmental groups, we have seen a draft design of this Marine Protected Area Network,” he said.

“It is vast, running from central Vancouver Island all the way to Alaska, that will potentially remove thousands of fishermen from these productive and diverse fishing grounds. But the question is, how will it protect Canada’s oceans?”

RELATED STORY: CANADA NEEDS TO TRIPLE OCEAN PROTECTION TO PROTECT HABITATS

MPAs are parts of the ocean that legally protect a range of species, habitats and features from the impacts of a variety of activities, including many aspects of fishing.

To date, Canada has established 14 MPAs under the Oceans Act, three National Marine Conservation Areas, one marine National Wildlife Area, and 59 marine refuges.

These areas now protect almost 14 per cent of Canada’s marine and coastal areas.

“The federal government has been very public with their plans to protect 25 per cent of Canada’s oceans by 2025, and has touted a promise to increase protection above and beyond that 25 per cent in the next decade,” Underwood said.

“Since this promise was made, the government has been pretty shy about releasing plans to the general public about how they plan to achieve these levels of protection.”

Underwood said that when most people ponder the meaning of ocean protection, they think of preventing pollution and oil spills, encouraging habitat restoration, and combating the effects of climate change.

But he said MPAs don’t address any of these major issues and, in fact, the Marine Protected Area Network proposed for the west coast lacks any real conservation objectives that do any real protecting at all.

“Most of the world’s seriously depleted fish stocks are not here in western Canada, where we have a sustainable fisheries framework that has been working for many generations,” Underwood said.

“Most of the fisheries out here in the west are sustainably managed and have zero to little negative environmental impacts. Our fisheries employ thousands of multi-generational fishermen, have a low carbon footprint, and provide much needed food security and income for the people of Canada.”

RELATED STORY: ADVOCATES SOUND ALARM ON MOST B.C. COMMERCIAL FISHING SEASON IN 50 YEARS

Underwood said among the many problems that marine protected areas present for fish and fishermen is the issue of over crowding.

He said that by removing vast areas of fishing grounds, the government would force fishermen into smaller areas, causing harm to the fish populations in the open areas, and creating irreparable damage to the coastal economy and coastal communities.

“Fishermen have not been properly consulted in any meaningful way in the process of creating MPAs,” Underwood said.

“We are still hoping that it’s not too late and that fishermen will be given a chance to engage in meaningful dialogue.”

Alistair MacGregor, MP for Cowichan-Malahat-Langford, said efforts to establish marine protected areas have been ongoing for years, and their mandate is still a little vague.

“My understanding is that these areas are meant to be protected and preserved, but fishing will still be permitted within their boundaries to some degree,” he said.

RELATED STORY: VANCOUVER ISLAND MPs FIGHT FOR COASTAL FISHERY

Dr. Rashid Sumaila is the director of Ocean Canada, a research initiative which is involved with universities, community groups and Fisheries and Oceans Canada in establishing marine protected areas in Canadian waters.

He said the contention that the west coast fisheries are sustainably managed is not supported by the evidence.

“Our salmon stocks are on their knees, and the central coast stocks of Pacific herring, as well as Chinook salmon stocks on the west coast of Vancouver Island, are over fished,” Sumaila said.

As for the suggestion that the establishment of marine protected areas off the west coast of B.C. would force fishermen into smaller areas and do damage to fish stocks, Sumaila said that will happen only if the unprotected areas are not managed.

“What is needed is a comprehensive package to manage both the protected and unprotected areas,” he said.

Sumaila also said that, despite points to the contrary, there is increasing evidence that MPAs can help ecosystems mitigate the effects of climate change.



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Over 5 million of funding announced for Nuxalk Big House and CCRD parks project

The funding is joint federal, provincial and municipal and will support 24 infrastructure projects

DFO Monitors keeping watch as commercial fishery opens up

Volunteer DFO Monitors have been onsite to ensure requirements are met

Cariboo waterways swell as special weather statement, rain continues Thursday July 2

Quesnel River at Likely and Quesnel Lake seeing 20 to 50 year events

QUIZ: Put your knowledge of Canada to the test

How much do you know about our country?

Commercial fishery closed tonight due to local concerns

The fishery was supposed to open tonight

B.C. accommodators need phone lines to light up as in-province travel given green light

Travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic have decimated the tourism and hospitality industries

300 Cache Creek residents on evacuation alert due to flood risk as river rises

Heavy rainfall on Canada Day has river rising steadily, threatening 175 properties

First glimpse of Canada’s true COVID-19 infection rate expected mid-July

At least 105,000 Canadians have tested positive for COVID-19 since the coronavirus was identified

Police ramp up efforts to get impaired drivers off B.C. roads this summer

July is dedicated to the Summer CounterAttack Impaired Driving Campaign

Migrant workers stage multi-city action for full status amid COVID-19 risks

‘COVID-19 has exacerbated an existing crisis’

Okanagan school drops ‘Rebels’ sports team name, citing links with U.S. Civil War

Name and formerly-used images “fly in the face” of the district’s human rights policy, says board chair

PHOTOS: B.C.’s top doc picks up personalized Fluevog shoes, tours mural exhibition

Murals of Gratitude exhibit includes at least one portrait of Henry alongside paintings of health-care workers

In troubled times: Independence Day in a land of confusion

Buffeted by invisible forces and just plain worn out, the United States of America celebrates its 244th birthday

Stop enforcing sex work laws during COVID-19, advocates say

There are provisions in Canada’s prostitution laws that make workers immune from prosecution, but not from arrest

Most Read