The federal government announced the closure of several recreational fishing sites and commercial salmon fisheries this week as part of an effort to mitigate ongoing threats to the resident killer whale population.
The closures took effect Friday, June 1, and will affect fisheries in portions of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Gulf Islands, and the mouth of the Fraser River, according to a Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) release.
The fisheries will remain closed until Sept. 30, according to the Times Colonist.
Southern resident killer whales face “an imminent threat to both survival and recovery,” the DFO states. There are only 76 remaining whales that inhabit the waters from southern and central Vancouver Island to northern California, including the Strait of Georgia, Puget Sound, and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Aside from acoustic and physical disturbance and pollution, a lack of prey is one of the critical factors affecting the whales’ recovery. The fishery closures are meant to increase prey availability and conserve Chinook salmon so that the whales are able to feed properly.
Rebecca Reid, regional director general for DFO, told the Times Colonist that protecting Chinook salmon will also have the added effect of increasing their numbers.
“It’s kind of a dual strategy: Make them available and if they’re not harvested by the whales, allow them to return to spawn,” she said.
The DFO said that further short and long-term actions to support the recovery of whale populations will be announced “in the near future.”