The Discovery Islands Marine Tourism Group
The Discovery Islands Marine Tourism Group is a coalition of local tourism businesses who depend on the magnificent scenic qualities of these geographically spectacular and biologically diverse islands for a living. Unfortunately, our working environment: the scenic marine corridors of the Discovery islands are being excessively degraded by large scale industrial logging.
Where are the Discovery Islands?
View Discovery Islands Marine Tourism in a larger map
Global tourism offers new benefits and new expectations. With the internet exposing exceptional vacation possibilities all over the world, tourism standards and expectations have risen. The tourist of the new millennium is sophisticated and not willing to pay top dollar for a substandard wilderness experience. This includes scenery which has been excessively industrialized.
Not only are we expected to offer a better quality experience, but we are severely penalized if we fail to meet expectations. The internet revolution is a double-edged sword. On the one hand it opens up world markets previously difficult to access, while on the other, websites like Trip Advisor announce a poor quality experience instantly and globally, with devastating consequences for business who don’t measure up.
A Short History
The Discovery Islands are the second most economically valuable marine wilderness destination in BC. In the early 1980’s salmon stocks of the Discovery Islands virtually collapsed. At the time, sport fishing was the largest part of he local tourism economy. Back then the area was called The Salmon Capital of the World. Around that time a new trend in global tourism emerged.
It was called adventure tourism and was based on experience rather than consumption. Very quickly local tourism companies re-tooled and the industry became scenery and wildlife based instead of salmon fishing. And it grew. Today, the Discovery Islands tourism sector consists of 120 lodges, resorts, marinas, hotels, motels, b&b's, vacation rentals, campgrounds, tour companies, fishing and marine transportation companies which are completely dependent on tourism (see list below). Combined, (not including Campbell River) this sector directly generates over 22.3 million dollars in revenue each year, employing 625 people full time or seasonally full time. If you were to include Campbell River, the estimated value of tourism would jump to approximately $45,000,000, with over 1200 employed. The Discovery Islands are now the second most economically valuable marine wilderness destination in BC (after Tofino/Pacific Rim).
When it comes to forest management, tourism companies are treated like a bystander, as though we are just in the way. In 2003 the BC Liberal government made profound changes to FRPA (the Forest Range & Practices Act) which governs how BC’s forests are managed. The intention was to give the forest industry greater flexibility in meeting market demands. By doing so however, the government excluded all other stakeholders from the decision making process. Companies like Timber West, Interfor, BC Timber Sales, even Woodlot operators have no legal requirement to inform the public or other economic stakeholders of their cutting plans. In the Discovery Islands, tourism operators first learn about new cut blocks when we hear chainsaws. This is not just inconsiderate; it is bad economic management on the part of government.
Four years ago, forest companies began intensively logging the shorelines of the Discovery Islands driven by increased demand from China and an economic recovery in the US. Therein lies the problem. The local tourism sector relies on the very forested shorelines that the logging industry is cutting. We are not informed, we are not consulted. We are treated like bystanders. We are not against logging, we are asking for meaningful input into cutting plans and greater protection for marine corridor viewsheds.
Watch our forests disappear along with long term sustainable jobs
Businesses banded together. Our purpose was to convince government that clear cutting forested shorelines important to the tourism sector would do great harm not only to the tourism sector here, but to the entire provincial economy. Not only does tourism employ more people than the logging sector here, in most years it generates more revenue and pays more taxes. Tourism adds immeasurable economic stability to a region plagued by historic forest sector turbulence.
We met with district forest managers, went on boat tours, and looked at dozens of resorts, lodges, and clear cuts throughout the islands and presented our case. We told them what was right and what was wrong with forest management here. In the end, we were told by MFLNRO (Forests, Lands, & Natural Resource Operations) managers that they were unmoved by our economic arguments. They insisted they were mandated by government to get as much revenue out of the forest as possible, regardless of any impact on the tourism industry.
We then asked to meet with Tourism, Jobs and Innovation, Minister Pat Bell and Minister of Forest, Lands, & Natural Resource Operations, Minister Steve Thomson. Despite more than a dozen letters, emails, and phone calls, Minister Thomson couldn’t be bothered to respond—at all. Our presumed tourism advocate in government Minister Pat Bell, finally granted us a meeting in May of 2012 after nearly a year of requests. We met with Minister Bell again in July, who told us it was not the governments job to get involved in these issues and instructed us to go talk to the forest licensees.
The Discovery Islands Marine Tourism group officially made 3 requests of government:
- That Minister Thomson and/or Minister Bell tour the Discovery Islands and meet with local business people first hand to see and hear their concerns.
- That an immediate hold be put on all proposed viewshed logging in three remaining unimpacted marine corridors (the lower Okisollo, Hole In The Wall, & Whiterock Passage) until the aforesaid meeting takes place.
- For government to recognize the importance of the tourism sector in the Discovery Islands and its contribution to the local and provincial economy, by forming a special land-use committee made up of stakeholders to find meaningful and fair balance between the major economic interests here.
The Governments Response
Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation Minister Pat Bell told us again that it was up to us to negotiate with logging companies and absolved the government of any responsibility to manage the local economy. At the same time Minister of Forest Lands & Natural Resource Operations Steve Thomson ordered BC Timber Sales to begin the tendering the road building and logging of the Lower Okisollo Channel. The Okisollo Channel connects two of the regions most famous Parks, the Octopus Islands Provincial Park and Surge Narrows Marine Park, as well as the world famous tidal rapids at Cooper Pt. These parks are visited by tens of thousands of visitors each year. Although BC Timber Sales insists the impact of clear cuts will be minimal, they will still be visible, beginning the destruction of a marine corridor with exceptionally high tourism value.
The Discovery Islands Marine Tourism Group’s request for a temporary moratorium on logging these critical waterways didn't’t seem like too much to ask. Evidently, it was. The governments solution to “Go talk to the Licensees” who hold all the power, have no obligation to negotiate, and nothing to gain by dialogue is not a solution. We ask, what are governments for?
The Discovery Islands Marine Tourism Group has acted in good faith and presented a very strong argument to government for increased protection of our working environment. The extraordinary Discovery Islands are not just our place of business, they are your back yard. Citizens from all over BC come here to sail, cruise, sport fish, watch wildlife, sea kayak, hike and swim. You have a stake in this too!
We think you should know that BC Liberal forest policies are not working for our businesses, our employees and local families. On May 14th please vote for a government that supports economic diversity on Vancouver Island.
Here is what the Forest Practices Board of BC has to say about the revised FPRA Act.
(Forest Practices Board bulletin # 7) existing Forest Development plans:
- need not provide plans with details to the public or economic stakeholders.
- have no obligation to provide measurable results.
- need not provide definite information about what forest practices will occur, where, or when.
- have no obligation to inform other economic stakeholders (i.e. The Tourism Sector).
- have no formal review or oversight by any government agencies.
- have no requirement to resolve public or stakeholder concerns.
Some interesting facts
In Feb. 2012, more than 1100 permits to export BC timber was processed by the MFLNRO
Source: Focus Magazine, Dec.; 2012; BC Log Exports; Katherine Gordon
In 2008, for the first time in British Columbia history, revenues created by tourism exceeded those produced by the entire forest industry (logging, processing, pulp & paper) Source: BC stats
The Discovery Islands are within 8 hours driving time of more than 6.3 million people—all potential visitors. If you include Calgary and Edmonton which have West Jet service to Comox, that number would increase to 8.3 million.