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Coastline of Pacific Rim National Park near Tofino | Yuri Choufour

Stewards of the Sea: Protecting the Ocean Around Vancouver Island Through Responsible Travel

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Pacific Rim National Park near Tofino | Yuri Choufour

You arrive on Vancouver Island by way of the ocean. Whether you’re sailing by ferry across it or flying through the skies above it, the ocean welcomes you, a gift for both locals and visitors. Protecting that gift is vital to the Island way of life. Conservation efforts and responsible tourism practices are vital, with sustainable travel an important piece of the puzzle. Practicing ocean-friendly travel, supporting ocean-friendly businesses, and learning about local conservation efforts allow you to experience the very best of Vancouver Island. For locals, it is our deepest desire to continue to protect and enjoy the pristine bodies of water that surround our beautiful Island, and we hope to inspire visitors to join us in that mission, becoming stewards of the sea themselves during their time here.

Brentwood | Reuben Krabbe

Being Ocean Friendly on Vancouver Island

Working within Surfrider Pacific Rim’s Ocean Friendly program, Tourism Vancouver Island proudly shares stories about ocean-friendly initiatives and conservation efforts on Vancouver Island through resources like their Ocean Friendly webpage. As a destination surrounded by the Pacific Ocean from coast to coast and from top to bottom, Vancouver Island’s heart is fed by the ocean. It serves as a source of inspiration for locals and a source of wonder for visitors, and protecting the ocean is vital to every community on the Island. Being an ocean-friendly traveller means committing to ocean-friendly practices, and supporting certified Ocean Friendly businesses and non-profit organizations across Vancouver Island that ensure their business practices support a clean and healthy coastal ecosystem.

Businesses at the forefront of this mission commit to eliminating single-use plastics, are conscious of how they divert waste, and adopt regenerative practices. On Vancouver Island, there are many Ocean Friendly-certified businesses and tourism operators you can support in their efforts.

Stewards of the Sea: Vancouver Island Businesses Protecting The Coastline

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The Stewards of the Sea

In 2020, Tourism Vancouver Island partnered with Tourism Tofino, Tourism Ucluelet, the Ucluelet Aquarium, and Surfrider Pacific Rim to share stories of ocean stewardship in the Pacific Rim region, located along Vancouver Island’s west coast. The result of that collaboration was Stewards of the Sea, a visual celebration of the hard work and commitment of the remarkable individuals and businesses who are leading the initiative to drive sustainable business practices and protect the oceans and coastlines we all love.

On Vancouver Island, the Ocean is Life

No visit to Vancouver Island is complete without dipping your toes in the ocean. Without examining the intertidal life found  in tidepools. Without seeking adventure in the crashing surf. Without breathing in the ocean’s misty calm. And unless we act to protect the gift of the ocean, none of these experiences are possible. Imagine arriving at a destination to a beach littered with plastic. That is a sad reality on Vancouver Island, and the reason organizations like Surfrider Pacific Rim work tirelessly to organize beach cleanups and to educate people on responsible practices. Because of their work, and the work of locals and visitors committing to ocean-friendly practices, our beaches stay clean. Our beaches stay magical. The philosophy of “leave a place better than you found it” prevails on Vancouver Island, and you can contribute to this by participating in a beach cleanup.

If you can’t find an organized event near you, we recommend taking part in Love Your Beach Clean (#LYBC) by Surfrider. You can organize your own beach cleanup, wherever you find yourself.

San Josef Bay | Shayd Johnson

Tips for a Successful Beach Cleanup

Choose an accessible beach: When you’re doing your own beach cleanup, we recommend choosing a beach that’s easy to access. Save the remote or tricky-access areas for organizations like Surfrider. A beach cleanup can be as simple as the sand in front of your ocean-front accommodation.

Pack the right gear: Bring gloves to protect your hands, sun protection, water to stay hydrated (in a reusable bottle, of course), and a bucket or bag  to put your trash in.

Search for the small: Microplastic is one of the hardest things to clean up, and one of the most rewarding for our ecosystem. While it can be tempting to look for large items, microplastic particles found buried deep in the sand are incredibly damaging for coastal ecosystems and for animals, and they are easy to pick up by hand.

Stay safe and watch coastal conditions: Ensure you’re planning your beach cleanup around with the tides and weather conditions. Look for low tides where you’ll have plenty of time, and avoid any rugged terrain.

Leave no trace: Leave behind all the natural systems you encounter, including kelp, driftwood, shells, rocks, and sand. While it can be tempting to have a keepsake, each of these coastal elements plays a vital role in a healthy ocean ecosystem. It’s also essential that you pack out everything you bring in.

Travelling Sustainably on Vancouver Island

There are countless ways to travel sustainably and with the ocean in mind on Vancouver Island. While convenience is a big part of the modern world, it’s becoming increasingly convenient to adopt ocean-friendly, mindful practices. Each time you visit a place, you leave a footprint on that environment, so sustainable travel is incredibly important. The more we travel sustainably, the more we inspire others to do the same. And cumulatively, the impact can be huge.

Orcas breaching the ocean surface | Adrian Dorst

Tips for Sustainable Travel

Bring your reusables: This is an easy choice that pays dividends to the marine environment. As a bonus, you have custom items that look good in your photos, and you can set a good example for others to follow. Remember to pack reusable straws, water bottles, a thermos for hot beverages, food containers, a cutlery pack, toiletry containers, and produce and shopping bags. Many businesses on the Island offer discounts when you bring your own containers.

Leave each place better than you found it: When you’re walking one of Vancouver Island’s breathtaking trails or beaches, keep your eyes peeled for plastic pollution and other garbage. Picking up even one makes a difference.

Shop mindfully: Supporting Ocean Friendly businesses is as easy as visiting Surfrider for a list of involved businesses in the Pacific Rim, or you can do some digging on your own. Ideally, purchase items made in British Columbia using natural materials and no plastics.

Become a “Steward of the Sea” on social media: One of the best things we can do for the sustainable travel movement is to talk about it. Share your practices with friends, family, and followers to encourage them to adopt the same principles. And when you’re travelling on the Island, follow @Surfrider_PacificRim and @TourismVancouverIsland and tag them in your ocean-friendly travel pics.

Tour responsibly: Mindful travel should be at the heart of any visit to Vancouver Island. Local businesses offer encounters with bears, whales, and other wildlife, and adventure-filled tours to hidden trails and treasures. Making sure you choose a company that practices ocean-friendly principles is easy and impactful.