Local whale watching businesses are increasing their environmental fees to fund research and support for whales and salmon, and are calling on other businesses to do the same.
Earlier this week, Prince of Whales announced a multi-year $1 million investment into orca conservation by increasing their conservation fees from $2 to $5. This funding will go towards orca-based science programs and chinook salmon recovery projects in B.C.
Eagle Wing Tours has charged a $2 Wild 4 Whales sustainability fee since 2013, with funds going towards three projects: the organization’s own Wild 4 Whales Foundation, the Pacific Salmon Foundation and the Salish Sea Marine Survival project. As of Dec. 1, they have also increased their sustainability fee to $5 per person.
Additionally, since 2009 the company has been carbon neutral, and since 2011 been part of the 1% For the Planet initiative, as have the majority of whale watching companies in Victoria. In total, the company has donated more than $450,000 since 2012.
“I applaud Prince of Whales for taking on the environment fee,” said Eagle Wing co-owner Brett Soberg. “But it’s a great opportunity for anyone in business to raise money to do a bunch of good work, why should it just be the whale watching community? It’s a great opportunity for everyone to help.”
Soberg said originally instating the fees was a no-brainer, and that guest responses has been very positive.
“Not one person has complained, and many people wanted to donate more,” Soberg said. “That’s a great problem to have.”
Soberg said that while many times whale watching companies are blamed for harming local whales, whose populations are steadily declining, in actuality, they are at the forefront of education and advocacy for healthier oceans.
“We’ve made these decisions along the way because it’s right by the fish, and it’s right by the whales,” he said. “As the case with any business, sustainability should be deeply ingrained in your business model. We all have a job to either influence positively or negatively, and whale watching has always been and will continue to be a platform to educate half a million people a year about the values of the healthy ocean.”
Soberg argued that local and national governments are simply not doing enough to help the dire situation and that more locals needed to step in and rally in an effort to save the salmon and whale populations, whether they volunteer at a hatchery or advocate for ocean health.
“These projects are all short-term solutions, but the whales need it. It’s a crisis right now,” Soberg said.
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