Tofino, half the pace, twice the pleasure!
Tofino, at the end on the Hwy 4, is the paradise of surfers, nature lovers, fishers, vegans, naturalists… It is very relaxing and peaceful atmosphere. We enjoyed a lot the long and wild beaches encircled by lush forests.
We arrived just after the end of the Pacific Rim Whale Festival that celebrates the arrival of grey whales. The occasion also for marine education and creates awareness about the pristine ecosystem preservation. Tofino is one of the best locations in the world to view these beautiful cetaceans. (Unfortunately, we did not see them this time). There are many whale watching tour operators (mostly owned by local people) in Tofino and the Clayoquot Sound area to enjoy the migration from March to October. Once hunted by indigenous Nuu-chah-nulth First nations for their meat, bone, oil for rituals, then by massive commercial whaling in the 18th and 19th centuries, now these giants weighing up to 30 tons are threatened by toxic spills, acute noise and fossil fuel exploration, collisions with ships and entanglements in fishing gear.
The Clayoquot Sound, UNESCO Man & Biosphere Reserve since 2000
Clayoquot Sound is a spectacular, biologically rich wilderness on the wes coast of Vancouver Island where Tofino and the Pacific Rim National Park are. It encompasses 265,000 hectares of land, 8% of Vancouver Island, covered with globally rare ancient temperate rainforest, and 85,000 hectares of Pacific Ocean. It is recognized as one the most magnificent temperate rainforests in North America.
We met Ms. Adrienne Mason, Acting Managing Coordinator, at the Clayoquot Biosphere Trust (CBT) located in Tofino to know more about the reserve. She explained us the UNESCO designation is an international recognition that recognizes the balance between people and nature through support of conservation and sustainable development. It does not add any more levels of protection, but includes the protected areas in national and provincial parks. It also recognizes that the communities are searching for new ways to live sustainably in the region, which can include sustainable use of resources. In the core area (33% of the biosphere reserve), the industrial activity is prohibited. Outside the core area, activities are permitted, framed by the various regulations.
The objective of the CBT is to support concrete projects that will benefit to the local community. It
manages an endowment given to the communities by the federal when the reserve was created in 2000. With local communities, the CBT is helping to promote the region as an education destination, for researchers, educational groups, etc. Most of the stakeholders help each others for example when an event is organized like the Whales Festival.
The CBT is administrated by a Board of directors composed of communities representatives, and 4 advisory committees (Community development, Culture & Events, Youth & Education, Research & Environment). They decide the direction of the CBT and help evaluate which local project to support. Recently, CBT has financed the integration of language of the First nations at school, outdoor visits for First nations pupils, ecology studies on wild salmon, etc… They also referenced all the educative resources about the Clayoquot (also in French!!!), an interesting support to inform our children!
We have to work together to help sustain the economy which is very fragile. One of the major challenges in the reserve is the decline of employment of local people
Local people, especially the 5 First nations living in the Reserve, has the right to develop their business in order to sustain their community and support the life condition improvement, even if it is logging. For example the only logging company operating in the Clayoquot is IISAAK (meaning « respect » in dialect), owned by First nations members, that benefit directly to them. That is the specificity of the Man and the Biosphere Program (MAB Program) that take into consideration the human and cultural heritage of remarkable habitats as a whole with the natural heritage.
We tought that the Unesco was monitoring carefully what’s going on in each designated Unesco sites and MAB reserves… A hard job we guess. But the only follow-up is a review made by Unesco staff every 10 years. It is very rare to remove the designation from a site. Does it mean that it is possible to do what you want? No, but that is not the role of the Unesco label but the protection laws already in place previously. The association for Unesco sites in Canada does once a year an internal report and coordinates cooperation in core topics like sustainable tourism and educational best practices sharing.
The « Sur la Route du Patrimoine » Project can contribute to the monitoring process by giving feed-back about all the Unesco sites we plan to visit during our Sustainable Cycling Expedition! Let’s hear us!
David & Miguel