Entrepreneurs and business owners in Tofino realize that running a successful local company includes being a steward of the natural environment that helped turned the community into a global tourism destination.
At Ocean Outfitters, headquartered on the Tofino waterfront, sustainability and community form the company’s bottom line.
When dutchman Daan Delen bought the company several years ago, he completely reimagined its mission into a social enterprise of the next order. Today, all profits from Ocean Outfitters’ wildlife viewing, kayak tours, and fishing charters are now invested back into environmental education, community projects, and conservation activism.
“Several years ago, as a company, we started asking ourselves tough questions. How do we redefine what wildlife tourism means? How do we become a socially and ecologically conscious business?” explained general manager Ocean Simone Shine in an article for Douglas Magazine.
“We want to play an active role in restoring Clayoquot Sound, because we feel it’s our responsibility to ensure not only it’s survival but to restore it’s abundance. I think we reached that threshold, beyond balance, a while ago. The more growth Tofino sees the less quality it can offer and the greater the impact on the environmental sustainability.”
In 2018/19, Ocean Outfitters donated $640,000 to initiatives such as stream restoration in the Tranquil Creek watershed restoration and the non-profit Cedar Coast Field Station.
At Tofino Resort and Marina, ex-NHL’er Willie Mitchell is still getting up to speed with the intricacies of resort management. His challenge was made even more difficult by COVID-19 protocols and travel restrictions. Mitchel admits it’s been a steep learning curve for “ a guy who chased rubber for a living.”
Mitchell, who grew up in Port McNeill as an avid fisherman, says he’s had to reassess his relationship with the ocean. For example, he made a conscious decision to remove the weigh scale from the resort’s dock, hoping to move the needle from an ego-based, biggest-is-best sport fishing mentality to one that is more rooted in respect.
Mitchell hosts an annual catch-and-release fish derby to raise money for Fish for the Future, a partnership between the resort and the Clayoquot Biosphere Trust that directs funds toward watershed projects. So far, Mitchell says they have raised $70,000. He hopes to grow the fund with a one percent flow-through from the resort’s annual revenues.
Lilly Woodbury, chapter manager for Surfrider Pacific Rim, heads up a dedicated group of 40 volunteers for Flash Clean Friday beach clean-ups, among other initiatives. Surfrider also launched the Ban the Bags and Straws Suck campaigns to help businesses remove plastics from the waste stream in recent years.
As a Tofino local, Woodbury feels strongly about balancing the pressures of tourism with environmental stewardship.
“It’s not in our mandate to determine a threshold for sustainable tourism but the fact is businesses are profiting from the beauty of this place,” Woodbury said. “We need to go above and beyond.”