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Logging Threatens Yacht Charter Industry

By Louise Marsh   21 August 2013

Though known by many as a fabulous luxury yacht charter destination, logging is threatening the stunning areas of Desolation Sound and the Discovery Islands.

For thousands of people, names such as Hole in the Wall, Okisollo Channel, Prideaux Haven, Pendrell Sound and Sonora Island evoke some of the best fun summer can offer - kayaking down world famous rapids, marvelling at orcas and grizzly bears in the wild, anchoring in coves abundant with sea life and swimming in the warmest ocean water north of Mexico while gazing at snow-covered peaks.

Sixteen provincial marine parks invite people to explore the waters between central Vancouver Island and the British Columbia mainland, and those who do explore them drive the local economies of the Discovery Islands and Desolation Sound. Fishermen, water taxi's, airport shuttles, kayak rentals, fishing guides, luxury yacht charter operators, restaurants, marinas and yacht clubs all await the months of July and August.

The Discovery Islands Marine Tourism Group claims that tourists here generate more than $45 million each year and employ 1,200 people in the Discovery Islands alone. This, added to the business brought in by up to 250 luxury yachts that anchor each night in Prideaux Haven, and all the other yachts anchored in other bays, provides the economic activity that enables hundreds of rural families to live where they do.

These economic benefits of tourism in the area may vastly outpace the economic benefits of forestry - the historic economic mainstay - but there is still a lot of logging on public lands at extremely visible locations in this summer cruising ground, and even more is scheduled for the autumn.

Jack Springer of Campbell River Whale Watching has a mostly European clientele who don't understand why so many trees are being destroyed. “It’s very difficult to explain to them what is going on here,” he explains. “They love our wildlife and scenery, but shake their heads at the way our forests are being harvested.” Jack is among the tourism operators and associated businesses that are asking 'why does logging still trump tourism in the Discovery Islands and Desolation Sound?'

At Hole in the Wall, tides push enormous volumes of water through a narrow channel at speeds of up to 11 knots, leaving gaping holes at the centre of bright blue/green whirlpools. It is a thrilling ride for experienced kayakers and draws in tourists from across the globe to the numerous kayak outfitters and charter yachts in the area.

Unfortunately, logging by TimberWest on Sonora Island threatens to bring clear cut scars right to the water’s edge and nearby, on the west side of Maurelle Island at a site directly opposite the Octopus Islands Marine Park, B.C. Timber Sales has punched right through a road and placed a log dump. Logging will begin here in the fall.

Members of the Discovery Islands Marine Tourism Group have worked together for almost two years to bring attention to the three channels around Maurelle Island - Hole in the Wall, the lower Okisollo and White Rock Passage. Protection of this area would preserve the final route in which tourists aren’t confronted by recent or active logging activity.

Tourism operators also want the province to do its accounting before any further logging takes place. Jack Springer of Campbell River Whale Watching recognises that tourism is a growing industry; “Plans from 50 years back won’t work for the next 10 or 20 years,” he says. “The province needs to analyse the demographics of what is going on now in terms of its economic contribution.”

Maurelle Island isn’t the only scheduled logging that will have a disproportionate impact on tourism here. A new logging road is now active at the north east boundary of the popular Desolation Sound Marine Park and there is even more logging planned for East Redonda Island, directly above the warm waters of Pendrell Sound. On Sonora Island, locals have temporarily stopped TimberWest’s logging of the first growth forests near Dorr Lake, but if TimberWest prevails, the logged areas will be visible from Hole in the Wall.

At the moment, however, the future of this area remains uncertain. Will industrial activity overwhelm the natural beauty here or will the new economy prevail, where people come from around the world for the spectacular activities and scenery?

Anchorages are few and far between because of the deep waters in this area. Waiatt Bay at the Octopus Islands is a fantastic anchorage. The very cold nutrient and oxygen rich ocean waters make for stunning marine life... - Mike Moore of Misty Isles Adventures

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