In response to being sued by two environmental groups, DFO has proposed to cut sport fishing out of an area without any scientific evidence to suggest possible effectiveness.

The proposed Critical Habitat Zone extension is a 5,025-sq.km area off the southwest coast of Vancouver Island that extends from the entrance to Juan de Fuca Strait to Quisitis Point (north of Tofino), and approximately 60 kilometres out to sea. The CH Zone would include La Pérouse Bank and Swiftsure Bank, which are vital areas for recreational fishing. To be clear, they are proposing zoning an area Critical Habitat under SARA which does not technically close the whole area. Considering the actions taken in the past year when an area was designated SARA, it is likely the DFO will do the same thing again. The area they are planning to designate SARA makes no sense at all.


Here is why:

  1. Much of the designated area is not frequented by Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKW). Sightings are reported less than once per year on La Perouse Bank
  2. There is no food shortage contrary to media coverage. The SRKW do not forage in the areas sport fishermen fish on LaPerouse and Swiftsure where there is an abundance of salmon. If the Orcas were hungry, the fisherman would see them there.
  3. DFO has strung together inappropriate data. There are no independent scientists that support DFO’s decision. Reasons are below.


(Source: Fisheries and Oceans Canada)

The proposed Critical Habitat extension is based on data and research that is insufficient and does not follow established research standards. As a result of the methodology used, DFO and CSAS have produced evidence and conclusions that are erroneous, misleading, and contradict Indigenous and local knowledge.


Examples of gaps in the DFO-CSAS science advice document

Examples of the problematic methodology include:

drawing a polygon around all sightings to deal with a lack of data;
relying extensively on data obtained outside the proposed CH Zone;
not eliminating multiple same-whales-same-day sighting data resulting in over-reporting bias;
failing to consult with holders of indigenous and local knowledge;
applying a disproven hypothesis that assumes whales use areas with high commercial and recreational catches
using sightings data collection methodology that was designed to determine whale survival and birth rates, not their spatial distribution and habitat use.

1.1 Data Errors with Southern Resident Killer Whale (SRKW) Observation

(taken from DFO’s Sara proposal)

Location of encounters over 40-year period (see figure 5) taken from DFO's SARA proposal

  1. Data misrepresents SRKW use of proposed CH area as it includes data from areas currently protected under SARA (existing CH per 2006 declaration) - only 98 of 292 (34%) encounters actually in proposed CH.
  2. Of those 98 encounters, 34 are on LaPerouse Bank – less than 1 per year
  3. Sighting data is insufficient, incomplete and employing sightings with incomplete coverage. Not using systematic transect surveys, and deployment of hydrophone networks has led to erroneous conclusions and misleading science advice.
  4. Survey methodology is flawed having used random spatial concentrations, therefore not correctly stratified to capture statistically significant data across enough of the proposed CH area. The representative sample  is not robust enough to draw accurate scientific conclusions
  5. Most surveys were conducted near shore, not off shore which led to missing vast areas of proposed CH extension – poorly designed study methodology with no controls, nor proper transect grid to gather objective data. The data collected is unreliable and stratified with spatial bias.
  6. Shore-based observations lack location precision, therefore nominal position data was assigned as a data proxy – again a very unreliable data source
  7. Sighting data that is not robust are rarely published in scientific journals due to well-recognized limitations – it is unclear as to how CSAS peer reviewers missed this.
  8. Encounters documented by opportunistic observers (non-DFO) – often contain incomplete data as only a small portion of data was collected and locations are  inaccurate/suspect – nominal position data points used as proxy for real data
  9. Some areas within the proposed CH are already protected as Rockfish Conservation Areas (RCA), as well as fin fish closure areas
  10. All encounters prior to 2003 were captured opportunistically by either whale watching operators or 1 marine taxi operator
  11. No effort made to eliminate multiple sightings of same whales on same day - over-reporting bias contained in data presented
  12. 30% of observation data was provided by non-DFO survey methodology – not conducted using repeatable scientific observation techniques. They did not use the proper transect approach.
  13. The DFO CSAS report authors cautioned that location of observations were spatially distributed along the near shore area, and to “interpret cautiously”
  14. We have drawn in a red boundary showing the proposed CH area to highlight how the data has been misrepresented – the reader’s eye is drawn to sightings well outside the proposed CH – CSAS peer review was not shown this view

Recommended Management Measures

(by Recreational Boating/Sportfishing Community that have spent hours looking at all the data)

400m Bubble Zone

   The Bubble Zone would require all small vessel operators under 60 gross tonnes to maintain a minimum distance of 400m from all SRKW.

    Certified Whale Watching operators with special training to correctly identify SRKW from other killer whale groups such as Transients, may be permitted to view Transient, NRKW and Offshore Killer Whales using measures detailed in a new Vessel Management Plan (VMP).

    Recreational vessel operators would be required to adhere to the Bubble Zone when any killer whales are present, as they generally do not have special training required to distinguish between SRKW and other killer whales.

    SRKW ability to acquire or access prey is a key limiting factor in their recovery. (Killer whales ambush and encircle prey, and therefore need undisturbed space from vessels to accomplish successful foraging.)

    The key issue isn’t the availability of prey but a combination of physical and acoustic disturbances that inhibit prey acquisition, and toxin related illnesses that weaken individual animals.

    400m is currently being used in other jurisdictions as the spatial distance that generally reduces acoustic disturbance and is less inhibiting to successful prey acquisition.

    The 400m Bubble Zone would require vessel operators, when in proximity to SRKWs, to turn off sounding equipment (if safe to do so) and slowly (under 7 knot speed) move away from whales.

    Intentionally positioning vessels ahead of roaming SRKWs to obtain a close view would be prohibited.

    The 400m Bubble Zone standard is in effect in eastern Canada for Beluga whales and should be adopted on the west coast of Canada to achieve one national standard for mariners.

    Adopting the 400m Bubble Zone standard uniformly across the entire coast would eliminate the need for large scale area closures.

Special Management Zones (SMZ) in High SRKW Forage Use Areas

 With guidance from a multi-sectoral CH Advisory Group, establish Special Management Zones that would identify- with pinpoint precision- specific small areas of high-use that would allow for special measures to be taken.
  Small especially significant areas would be closed to all small vessel traffic under 60 gross tonnes.
  Closely monitored SMZ areas could be opened or closed at times when SRKW are foraging.
  Ongoing research would be conducted to measure SMZ effectiveness and identify where additional SMZ areas might be required.

Independent Science Panel

To be implemented immediately, the Independent Science Panel would be comprised of three independent experts to provide the Minister and Cabinet with independent scientific review and advice on all CH extension proposals at various stages of the SARA process.
The panel would provide ongoing research and advice to assist informing the Minister of management options and issues.
In the immediate term, the Science Panel would review public consultation and DFO departmental advice related to CH extension proposals and provide guidance to Cabinet through the SARA process.

Multi-sectoral Critical Habitat Advisory and Monitoring Group

Remove current Area Closures (The 400m Bubble Zone will provide interim protection.)
Work with key Subject Matter Experts (SME) from stakeholder groups to identify special habitat areas of SRKW high-use.
Consider monitoring high-use areas and implementing short-term measures, such as vessel closures only in places and during times when SRKW are foraging.
Work with independent science advisors and stakeholder SME to develop effective monitoring protocols to actively measure management actions implemented in CH areas

Prey Availability Working Group

Conduct targeted research to better understand Chinook abundance trends, and spatial distribution in Critical Habitat areas.
Conduct targeted research to better understand impediments to SRKW acquisition of prey.
Develop future strategies to enhance prey availability.
Identify Chinook stocks that contribute most to SRKW diet and provide advice to DFO regarding priorities for enhancement or special fishery management measures to increase abundance.
Identify and assess threats impeding SRKWs from successfully accessing prey and develop management measures to improve prey acquisition outcomes.

Establish a Military Live Fire Bubble Zone

Live fire exercises create significant acoustic and physical disturbance impacting SRKW prey acquisition.
Work with the Military to develop protocols to establish a five-nautical mile bubble zone radius to ensure no live fire exercise is conducted when SRKW are within the bubble zone range.

Increase User Conservation Fees to Fund Chinook Enhancement

At this time, a saltwater fishing license which includes a salmon stamp is the cheapest you can buy anywhere in the world for a license. This money could be used to help out with salmon enhancement.