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Whales ... or jobs?

Sport fishing, tourism and business leaders from across Vancouver Island say their livelihoods would be damaged by an extension of federal fishing closures to protect endangered southern resident killer whales.

About two dozen leaders gathered today at a popular sport fishing marina near Victoria to warn the federal government almost 10,000 jobs are at stake as well as the survival of several small coastal communities that base their economies on recreational fishing and tourism.

B.C. Chamber of Commerce president Val Litwin says its member organizations across the Island have formed a coalition called Thriving Orcas, Thriving Communities to protect their cities, towns and villages.

The federal government has extended a 5,000 square kilometre critical habitat zone off the southwest coast of Vancouver Island that could result in fishing closures to protect the whales, whose population stands at 74.

Karl Ablack of the Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce says recreational fishing generates almost $1 billion for the B.C. economy and employs more than 8,400 people.

Ryan Chamberland of the Sooke area chamber and a fishing lodge operator says sport fishing closures in Sooke-Port Renfrew last year hurt businesses and charter bookings, which are down up to 80 per cent for this coming season.



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