Thursday, December 5, 2013

Bluewater Adventures wins Sustainable Tourism Award



Media Contact:
Erin Boyle
Tel: 604-980-3800

Bluewater Adventures wins Sustainable Tourism Award


Introducing the World to Some of the Last Truly Wild Places on the Planet

Photo: Sherry Kirkvold

Photo: Hubert Kang/ CTC

Photo: Rachel Elliott


North Vancouver, BC, Canada. December 3, 2013 – Bluewater Adventures made a commitment from the beginning to adhere to the principals of ecotourism by supporting local communities, promoting conservation, ensuring their practices are low impact, and by providing their guests with world-class knowledge about the BC coast, the wildlife and First Nations culture.

When Bluewater Adventures’ Managing Director and Owner, Randy Burke, purchased the company almost 28 years ago he knew that he wanted to introduce people from all over the world to the remote and wild corners of the BC coast; he believed that by sharing his knowledge and passion for this part of the world with his guests he could foster deep and lasting connections that would inspire others to care as much as he did.
“One of the most important aspects of conservation is giving people the opportunity to discover and care about vulnerable places. It’s impossible to experience these places in such an intimate way and not feel invested in their future.”- Randy Burke
The issues around conservation, both locally and globally, have changed dramatically over the last 28 years. Canada, a country once known for its pristine wilderness, is now the focus of extreme criticism, globally, as a result of questionable environmental policies that have left many wondering if Canadians do in fact care about the health of the planet. 

Canadians do care and Bluewater Adventures is just one example of this; having demonstrated a commitment to conservation through numerous ongoing conservation initiatives and partnerships which include:

·         Signing protocol agreements with local First Nations

·         Becoming Carbon Neutral

·         Joining1% for the Planet

·         Completing the Green Tourism Canada Assessment– Gold Award

·         Achieving Ocean Wise Certification

·         Purchasing Bullfrog Power

Most recently, the Tourism Industry Association of Canada has acknowledged these commitments and presented Bluewater Adventures with the – Transat AT Sustainable Tourism Award (Dec 3, 2013).

Since 1974, Bluewater Adventures’ reputation has brought respected groups and people from around the world to enjoy multi-day, live-aboard trips exploring the remote wilderness of coastal British Columbia and Southeast Alaska. Aboard the 21-metre expedition yachts, guests and crew keep watch for whales and other marine mammals, coastal birds, bears, old-growth forests, and ancient native villages. Experienced Biologists, renowned resource people, and professional crew engage guests on these unique learning journeys. Trips specialize in wildlife, coastal ecology and conservation, and history of the west coast.

For more information and reservations, contact Bluewater Adventures at (888) 877-1770, or visit their website:





Friday, June 14, 2013

Naturalist, Lindsay Janes, on Bear Viewing with Bluewater Adventures

In a few short days, I’ll be heading up to the Khutzeymateen Inlet for some prime bear viewing. Am I excited? You could say that... Why am I excited? Bear with me…

The Khutzeymateen Valley is a large conservation area that is infamous for the large number of grizzly bears - not to mention black bears - that make this sanctuary their home. My hope is that we’ll get to see a few of these residents as they go about their spring routine… that is, eating delicious sedges.

Actually, when they’re not sleeping, eating is pretty much a bear’s main focus. Along with the sedges, a coastal bear’s annual menu includes fresh greens – and root vegetables for grizzly bears, who are known for their digging abilities – berries, and finally salmon in the fall, with some intertidal invertebrates as appetizers. (I would order this 5 course meal any day, hold the sedges).

Because bears are focused on food, we are able to visit estuaries during the summer and fall with this intention of viewing grizzly and black bears. Food is so important that these bears are willing to tolerate humans watching, as long as they are able to continue eating. Researchers like Dr. Barrie Gilbert – a naturalist with Bluewater Adventures – theorize that in some places bear viewing has actually helped increase the population of bears, since the older males are less likely to frequent areas that humans visit, therefore making it safer for mothers with cubs to feed.

Bear viewing isn’t just about getting great photographs – for guides it’s about finding that balance between being close enough to enjoy these magnificent animals, while still giving bears the space they need to feel comfortable in their activities. How much space? Well, as Grant MacHutchon – a commercial bear viewing facilitator and also a naturalist with Bluewater – says, “It depends…”

Is the bear giving signs that it he or she is stressed? Are there other bears in the area? Is the food source limited? Are you watching a mother bear with new cubs? These variables to consider while bear viewing was just one of many discussion topics that arose at the 2013 bear viewing guide training. This year it took place in Knight Inlet and when we weren’t discussing bears, we were out in the estuary watching them. Pretty rough, I know.

Growing up in BC, I’ve had many interactions with bears, and no two of them were the same. My experiences echoed the main theme of this course: each interaction that we have with bears is unique. Just like a person’s mood which changes daily (if not hourly), with many factors contributing to their overall state of mind, a bear’s tolerance of people watching them also changes. You might have been able to get fairly close to a mother bear and her cubs one day, but find the next morning that she is giving signs of stress at a much greater distance. And we may never know the backstory of why this is the case. Perhaps a new male moved into the area and threatened her cubs. Perhaps a wolf pack drove her from her feeding area. Regardless of the reason, a big part of bear viewing is understanding bear behaviour and reacting accordingly to their tolerance level at that specific moment. As well, although bears are highly adaptable creatures, we often watch from consistent areas - such as bear stands - to allow bears to predict where we will be, and give them the choice to feed in proximity if they feel comfortable.

Ultimately we want to ensure bears can go about their normal activity while still offering the best bear viewing experience for our guests. Keeping these guidelines - and other guidelines suggested by the Commercial Bear Viewing Association - in mind greatly increases our chances of incredible encounters with bears.

I’m excited that my – and Bluewater’s – season of bear viewing will begin in the Khutzeymateen, and I’m also excited that it will continue through to Alaska, Knight Inlet, and then into Great Bear Rainforest. The areas we visit are known for high bear concentrations and I look forward to comparing these experiences to each other and to previous years with a new lens of understanding bear tolerance.

Now… speaking of berries… I should probably go taste-test that salmonberry patch again…

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Northern Gateway Hearing in Vancouver, BC

Randy Burke, Owner and Director Of Bluewater Adventures signed up to speak at the Northern GatewayPipeline hearings that are currently being held in Vancouver, BC. He spoke on the morning of Tuesday, January 15th, 2013, presenting to 4 panel members.
This project aims to run pipeline from the Alberta Tar Sands, across a vast mountain range to the terminus port in Kitimat, British Columbia. From here, supertankers loaded with diluted bitumen, will set sail through the winding waters of the Great Bear Rainforest, into perilous Hecate Strait with their destination being foreign markets. Thousands have raised their voices in opposition to this project and continue to do so...

Please read the transcript of Randy's Presentation below:

Northern Gateway - National Energy Board’s Joint Review Panel – January 15, 2013

Submission by: Captain Randy Burke - Managing Director, Bluewater Adventures Ltd
                                                        - Director, Gwaii Haanas Tour Operators Association
                                                        - Director, Commercial Bear Viewing Association of BC
Panel members: Sheila Leggett, Kenneth Bateman and Hans Matthews

Recognition: This meeting is happening in the traditional territory of the Coast Salish.
I have been a professional mariner and Captain for the last 30 years along the British Columbia coast and since 1988 been the owner of Bluewater Adventures Ltd. Bluewater Adventures is an award-winning nature cruise company, based in North Vancouver. Founded in 1974, we are one of the first ecotourism companies in BC. I have 8 year round employees and an additional 20 seasonal employees. Bluewater Adventures sells the “Super Natural BC” coast, and relies upon intact wildlife populations, the protection of wildlife habitat, and dynamic Coastal First Nations communities for our business to survive and flourish. I believe this coast provides the finest tourism experience in the world – it equals the beauty of New Zealand and Norway, and no where else do you find whales in such abundance, and wilderness dependent species like grizzly bears and wolves to watch.
Great Bear Rainforest:
·      One of our main destinations is the Great Bear Rainforest; and lower Douglas Channel is critical to our operations.
·      Researchers at Cetacea Lab estimate there are 100 humpback whales regularly in the lower Douglas Channel area. It is recognized as critical habitat for northern resident orcas, and one of the only places on the coast where fin whales – the second largest whale on the planet - come inshore to feed.
·      In 2012, we found there were more whales in the lower Douglas Channel area than anywhere else on the coast.
·       Northern Gateway puts a superhighway right through the living room of these whales. The sounds from these ships will impede whales from communicating, feeding and destroy this critical habitat. Collisions with big ships have already been reported, with two cruise ships entering Vancouver with dead fin whales wrapped around their bows.
·      The industrialization of this area is in direct opposition to the wilderness product I provide.
·      Bluewater Adventures’ Great Bear Rainforest trip was named one of 50 Canadian Signature Experiences by the Canadian Tourism Commission. They designated a visit to the Great Bear Rainforest as iconic of Canada; one of the truly unique experiences Canada has to offer visitors from around the world.
·      The January, 2013 edition of National Geographic Traveler magazine names the Great Bear Rainforest one of “20 must-see places”.
·      Bluewater Adventures has signed First Nation protocol agreements with the Gitga’at of Hartley Bay, the Haisla in Kitimat, and Kitasoo / Xaixais in Klemtu recognizing their inherent rights and traditional territories. We operate with their permission and stand with Coastal First Nations in opposition to this project.
-      Northern Gateway and specifically, tankers transiting from Kitimat, through Hecate Strait and Dixon Entrance, risks the very existence of my business.
Why are the risks too great?
Inappropriate accounting of the risks of weather
In their submission Enbridge uses averages for weather and wave height that grossly underestimate the risks of high winds and high waves. In particular, the submission does not address the risks if winds, waves, currents or poor visibility are combined.
Environment Canada employees at Cape St James reported 100 foot waves just offshore. These occurrences are not mentioned in the averages submitted by Enbridge. As a mariner who has spent the last 25 years sailing Hecate Strait, I can assure you it is not the placid ocean depicted in Enbridge’s submission. Hecate Strait has been described as one of the most dangerous bodies of water in the world.
Carriage of oil by third party carriers. Enbridge presents a misleading picture as IF they are responsible for all of the transportation of bitumen and condensate. In reality, they would buy and sell from the Kitimat terminal and have no responsibility after that point. The carriage of the bitumen and condensate would be arranged using foreign ships, mostly operating under “flags of convenience”. It is the ship owner who is responsible, not the product owner in the event of an oil spill. In many cases, the ship owner is merely a holding company and when a major liability arises each individual ship can be written off bringing into question who is accountable for costs of cleanup. (Major Marine Vessel Casualty Risk and Response Preparedness in British Columbia EnviroEmerg Consulting for Living Oceans).
The legal limit of liability in Canada combined with available international funds for oil spills amounts to just $500 million. When we have examples of both the Exxon Valdez and Deepwater Horizon spills costing billions, if we had a major spill in Canada the citizens of Canada would be responsible for the clean-up. It is entirely irresponsible for Canadian citizens to be taking the risks for the profit making efforts of Enbridge.
No Details on what would happen in the event of an oil spill
Enbridge does not detail the effect of an oil spill, only the likelihood of its occurrence. Again the use of averages in the submission distorts the picture so it appears so unlikely, it is hardly worth worrying about. Yet as pointed out in the combined submission of Raincoast Conservation and partners, who quote Anderson & Labelle in Spill Science Technology Bulletin, “Enbridge Gateway would be expected to experience 7 spills from tankers or port operations over 1,000 barrels during it’s 30 year life”.
Before this project can be considered for approval I want Enbridge to show how it would clean up a major spill and what effect it would have on the BC coast. 20 years after the Exxon Valdez, oil is still just under the surface on the beaches, some wildlife populations have never recovered; what exactly did the expenditure of billions of dollars in clean-up efforts achieve? 
Oil spill clean-up technology ineffective on bitumen
Almost all the clean-up technology on the BC coast is designed for surface clean-up and containment of crude oil. Yet bitumen is likely to sink. How can the Joint Review Panel approve a project without viable, mitigation clean-up technology? It is not acceptable to have 10% or 30% recovery and call that success. And Deepwater Horizon demonstrated the use of dispersants is dangerous, with many unknown effects, particularly on human health (WWF Canada).   

Gwaii Haanas Tour Operators Association:
-      The purpose of the Gwaii Haanas Tour Operators Association is to represent the interests of visitors and tour operators to the Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site. There are 20 member companies in the Association.
-      National Geographic rated Gwaii Haanas the number 1 national park in North America. 
-      My company's Gwaii Haanas tour was rated “One of 50 of the Worlds Best Tours”.
-      The southern tanker route would come right past Gwaii Haanas and an oil spill that affected Gwaii Haanas would ruin a world-class gem.
-      I note the southern tip of Gwaii Haanas, Cape St. James has the distinction of having the “highest average winds of any light station in Canada”.
-      The Association opposes Northern Gateway
Commercial Bear Viewing Association of BC:
The Association was formed to promote sustainable bear viewing and the protection of wild bears and their ecosystems.
-      Bear viewing is demonstrating tremendous growth and interest from around the world. The British Columbia coast is not only one of the last remaining places in the world where you can view grizzly bears, but it is home to the unique, Kermode or Spirit bear (Ursus Americanus Kermodei). This all-white bear is a black bear created by the prevalence of specific recessive genes in one small area of the BC Coast.
-      The area with the highest concentration of Kermode bears is right on the tanker route down Douglas Channel.
-      The Kermode bear is the provincial mammal of BC, yet Enbridge’s submission does not recognize this animal, provides no evidence how their proposal would affect these animals or how they would mitigate negative effects from increased shipping or an oil spill.
-      The value of Kermode bear viewing alone is estimated at $1.5 million in 2012. 
Reputation of the BC Coast:   
-      Our reputation is paramount. It is very difficult to put a figure on the value of a good reputation, or the cost of losing it. What we are proposing here is risking the very reputation that British Columbia has spent decades and millions of tourism dollars promoting – namely a beautiful British Columbia coast, full of wildlife.
-      I was in business when the Exxon Valdez spill happened over 700 km away. I received several concerned calls asking what effect the spill would have on our tours and whether we were going to cancel any tours. People do not understand regional geography.
-      After the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, how do you feel about spending your holiday on the Alabama coast. Hesitant? Do you know if all the oil has been cleaned up? How many years does it take before we let go of that fear, or is it spoiled in our minds forever?
-      After this process, any oil spill on the BC coast is going to get tremendous media  attention. Any significant spill will “tar” the reputation of the BC Coast for decades to come.
-      And the effect will be well-beyond its geographical boundaries. It won’t matter that the spill may be near Hartley Bay, people will cancel their holidays to Gwaii Haanas and northern Vancouver Island.
-      I can assure you a major oil spill in the Great Bear Rainforest will reduce our business by an estimated 20-30%, and that is enough to put us out of business. Not just Bluewater Adventures, but the 20 members of the Gwaii Haanas Tour Operators Association and the majority of the members of the Commercial Bear Viewing Association.
The precautionary principle says this project should not be approved. There are greater risks than the proponent has recognized, and specific ones that cannot be mitigated effectively. When one industry’s proposal jeopardizes thousands of tourism jobs, simply to create a few hundred mostly short term jobs it does not make sense. When the risks of this proposal can ruin coastal tourism for decades, it does not make sense. Coastal ecotourism cannot co-exist with Northern Gateway. I urge you to turn down the application.   
I appreciate this opportunity in democracy. I trust that my voice and the voices of British Columbians will be heard, respected and acted upon. 

Thank you