Viewpoint: Why are orcas starving?

For 30 years I have travelled to Powell River with a singular purpose: fishing. Imagine, after paying $112 for a fishing licence in April, to learn that everything was catch and release.

But I came anyway, for I am a sport fisher, not a “meat” fisher. I have fished everything from steelhead to marlin and hammerhead shark where you cannot keep a fish (by the way, I would rather fish salmon in Powell River ), but after all these years I wasn't sure what it would feel like to hook salmon and know I couldn't keep it. I found out within 10 minutes of fishing.

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In 136 hours of fishing over three weeks between May 30 and June 20, we caught and released 318 fish. None of the fish were netted; all were released at the swim grid and every care was taken for their safe release. It is the best fishing I have experienced in all the years I have fished here.

For 15 years I sponsored a fishing tournament in Powell River aptly named “Scare the Fish.” One year, over three days, 18 fishermen on six charter boats landed 12 fish. The orcas weren't starving then, and there were no fish. Why are they starving now?

This trip, we had the orcas around us twice, once at Van Anda and once at Coho Point. The orcas are not starving. If they are, they are not the apex predator I studied in zoology. The fish are there, we landed an estimated two tons of them.

Politicians are not starving. Fisheries officials are not starving. Fishing guides are starving, as are tackle and sport shops. Fishers are starving to spend money to pursue their passion. Calculate what the average sport-caught fish generates for the BC economy, and then the amount the commercial-caught fish generates. Calculate the percentage of fish taken for sport versus the amount taken commercially. Do the math.

If you want to save the salmon, shut down the whole fishery. Shut it down for everyone. This decision is political pandering and posturing. I have owned my own business for over 40 years. Two months without cash flow will be death for most small business owners.

As a Canadian living in the United States, I know the typical fisher will not be able to differentiate when the ban is lifted or not, and BC's reputation as the place to fish will suffer irreparable damage. The impacts will be felt for years, not just until July 15.

Don Harrison is a Canadian living in Newport Beach, California, who visits Powell River regularly.

Copyright © Powell River Peak


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