Wilderness Tourism Association of BC (WTABC) and Small Ships Tour Operators Association (SSTOA) with support from the Commercial Bear Viewing Association (CBVA) join the Province of BC in ambitious beach clean up of harmful marine debris across BC’s north coast
On August 18, 2020 a fleet of tourism ships began an unprecedented, six-week expedition to the Great Bear Rainforest’s outer coast as part of the Marine Debris Removal Initiative (MDRI), a project funded by the provincial Ministry of Environment & Climate Change Strategy.
With the blessing from Indigenous leaders in the region, the expedition expects to remove 75 and 100 tons of marine waste, including plastics, from over 1,000 km of coastal beaches along the Great Bear Rainforest. A group of BC small ship tour companies developed this innovative project in response to tourism shutdowns due to COVID-19.
"In these trying and uncertain times, the proposal and initiative from the SSTOA provides a rare opportunity and a good news story,” says Doug Neasloss, Stewardship Director with the Kitasoo-Xai’Xais Nation. “Marine debris is an on-going challenge and a removal initiative of this scale -- to clean up a large, remote coastline -- is an undertaking that will provide significant environmental benefit to Kitasoo/Xai’Xais territory and beyond."
- This initiative is being funded as part of the province’s COVID-19 stimulus funding and will provide needed work for 100+ crew and guides on nine ships, from five BC ecotourism companies. It will also employ a tug and barge and helicopter. In addition, a related in-shore clean-up done by members of Coastal First Nations communities will employ another 75 people.
- The crews, which include a number of scientists, are also collecting data on the debris they clean up, which they’ll provide to the Ministry of Environment & Climate Change Strategy.
Photo credit: Simon Ager
Kevin Smith, Maple Leaf Adventures
Owner & Captain Smith brings over 20 years of experience including coordinating remote beach clean-ups on north-western Vancouver Island for BC Parks, working as a fisheries patrol officer and backcountry park ranger, and Maple Leaf Adventures celebrates 20 years in operation in 2021.
Photo credit: Simon Ager
Randy Burke, Bluewater Adventures
Owner & Captain, Burke has over 30 year’s experience leading an award-winning eco-tour company on the BC Coast. He is an eco-tourism pioneer, educator, and conservationist with long standing friendships with Coastal First Nations. Bluewater Adventures’ fleet of locally built, custom motor-sailors; Island Roamer and Island Odyssey are now joined by the new flagship, Island Solitude.
Photo credit: Bluewater Adventures
Eric Boyum, Ocean Adventures Charter Company
Owner Eric Boyum’s 39 years’ experience as a captain, his years in commercial fishing, and as a firefighter in West Vancouver for 25 years, bring his specialized skills to this project. As well as working on shore with his team, Eric is the SSTOABC liaison with the Heiltsuk Nation, Heiltsuk Horizon, (who own and operate the tug and barge involved in the clean up), as well as the Kitasoo Xai’xais Nation and their community's Spirit Bear Lodge.
Photo credit: Trish Boyum
Scott Benton has been actively involved in resource, recreation and tourism management in British Columbia for over 30 years. His passion is working with people to create practical solutions for positive social, environmental and economic outcomes.
Scott has lived throughout the Pacific Northwest and most of British Columbia. His educational background is in recreation management and public administration. He previously worked for the Province of BC holding a number of technical, management and senior management positions responsible for environmental management, land use planning and parks governance and management.
Scott joined the Wilderness Tourism Association as Executive Director in late 2016. He serves in the same capacity for the BC River Outfitters Association .
Katherine MacRae, Executive Director, Commercial Bear Viewing Association of BC
Katherine MacRae is the Executive Director for the Commercial Bear Viewing Association of BC. With over 30 years of experience in the tourism industry and a Master of Arts in Tourism Management from Royal Roads University, Katherine brings a passion for the industry to everything she does. Through Katherine’s work, she is a strong advocate for wildlife in BC and was instrumental in closing the grizzly bear hunt in December 2017.
Photo credit: Matt Cecil Photography
These small ship companies are internationally recognized, offering “Signature Canadian Experiences”, and have for years worked closely with Coastal First Nations honouring the protocol agreements in place. Three of the member companies have been awarded the Sustainable Tourism Awards from the Tourism Industry Association of Canada.