Ocean Outfitters recently dished out a $200,000 cheque to help restore West Coast wild salmon populations. The funds will go towards a Tranquil Watershed project. (Photo submitted by Central Westcoast Forest Society)

Tofino’s Ocean Outfitters donates $200K to salmon restoration efforts

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation and Central Westcoast Forest Society working to revive Tranquil Watershed

Vital efforts being made to restore vanishing salmon habitats on the West Coast recently received a massive boost by way of a $200,000 donation from Ocean Outfitters.

The impressive contribution will go towards a restoration project at Tranquil Watershed being conducted through a partnership between the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation and Central Westcoast Forest Society.

Tranquil Watershed, which has historically been used by thousands of Chinook each year, saw a record low 64 chinook counted in 2018.

READ MORE: Salmon populations “drastically declining” around Tofino and Ucluelet

“The drastic decline in our local salmon populations is alarming. There are many factors contributing to the critical state of Pacific salmon such as contaminants and disease transfer from open net pen aquaculture, rising ocean temperatures, overfishing, and as a result of unrestricted commercial logging practices, many salmon bearing watersheds were destroyed,” Ocean Outfitters general manager Ocean Simone Shine told the Westerly News.

“While we cannot tackle these issues all at once, nor alone, we can tackle this one in particular, by working with Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks and Central Westcoast Forest Society to create a home for wild salmon to return to. The loss of wild salmon affects traditional ways of life. Restoring Tranquil’s health, benefits all Nations.”

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation manager of lands and resources Saya Masso told the Westerly that Ocean Outfitter’s generosity will play a vital role in restoring an invaluable resource.

“The Eeseuklis (Tranquil) watershed is a priority watershed for the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation. Our goal is to recover the habitat from the past logging that transpired in the watershed, and to see an abundance of multi-species fish stocks to be returned,” he said. “The partnership with CWFS and the donation from Ocean Outfitters will allow us to achieve important restoration targets for the river and fish habitat, such as, re-opening the ancestral water channel; implementation of a silviculture plan; and large woody debris installations. Our goal is to one day be able to have enough fish in the river to be able support a Food Fishery, and ultimately an economic fishery.”

READ MORE: Tofino and Ucluelet facing likely fishing closures in 2019

Shine said contributing to the efforts being made to restore local watersheds fits well within Ocean Outfitter’s mandate.

“Salmon are unimaginably precious. Part of our mandate is ecological stewardship and we believe this integrity must come before commerce. We made a commitment as an organization to do what we could for wild salmon because everything depends on them, from bears, to forests, to all Coastal Peoples. We want to support Tribal Park’s vision to restore a healthy ecosystem, upon which, we believe exist alternatives to resource extraction and industry jobs. We want to support a healthy coast, and local on the ground organizations like CWFS, for a thriving community,” she said.

“We believe in a holistic approach that conserves and restores wild salmon habitat, that revitalizes stocks, and creates training, employment, and stewardship opportunities for local First Nations. These annual donations will provide at least four Tla-o-qui-aht jobs, and support the measurable Tranquil Watershed Restoration Initiative objectives.”

Through a statement, the Central Westcoast Forest Society heralded Ocean Outfitters as “one of the most environmentally and community minded operators working in our region,” and thanked the company for continuing to support local restoration efforts.

“Many business profit from the beauty of Clayoquot Sound but few hold themselves to such rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency,” the statement read.

READ MORE: Seafood feast in Tofino supports salmon restoration efforts

“It means a lot,” CWFS project manager Tom Balfour told the Westerly. “It’s really cool to see a business step up to that level for something they believe in.”

Shine said she hopes to see more local businesses step up to support wild salmon habitats.

“As biological diversity is disappearing at rapid rates, we cannot hope to continue with business models and land use ethics that are driven purely by economic self-interest. Businesses need to be good citizens. We recognize this ecosystem is worth protecting and we are playing the role that we can, to preserve it,” she said. “Of course, we would love our business model to inspire others. We would encourage anyone to contribute to a values-based culture and society, keeping our long-term futures in mind.”

READ MORE: VIDEO: Willie Mitchell’s Fish for the Future derby nets $14K for salmon restoration efforts in Tofino



andrew.bailey@westerlynews.ca

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