Could Port Alice become the sea otter watching capital of Canada?
After being hunted to extinction on BC’s coast, 89 Alaskan seas otters were reintroduced to the west coast of Vancouver Island in the late 1960s.
Ever since, sea otters have rebounded and can be spotted up and down the coast, but are particularly prevalent in places like Port Alice, Kyuoquote, and Winter Harbour.
George Fraser, who moved to Port Alice in May, has a sea otter eco-tour business, and together with longtime friend Blair McLean, he presented to Port Alice council on June 13 about the potential for the community to become a sea otter watching hub.
McLean, who has lived in Port Alice for 12 years, founded the Knight Inlet Fishing Lodge in the early 1970s and started a bear watching businesses after the salmon return declined.
“It took me years to build it up and then the product left me in Knight Inlet and the guys were just as interested in going to see the bears as they were fishing,” explained McLean.
He said that Port Alice has a “unique product” in the sea otters.
“It’s right up there with the top 5 animals people want to see in Canada,” said McLean, adding “It’s in calm water and this really appeals to families….they have never seen this if they come from Phoenix Arizona or places like that – you have a treasure here.”
McLean said in the twelve years he has lived in Port Alice, he estimates the sea otter population has more than doubled.
“There are places that have more sea otters than you but they are not easy to get to,” said McLean, adding “With the airport in Port Hardy and the paved road, and with your services all here the people will come and fall in love with it.”
McLean and Fraser said they weren’t asking anything of council other than simply “saying its a good idea.”
He said they plan on the business starting very small with just three to four people on a tour.
“If you went to telegraph cove and looked at their history they started off with a few killer whales and a shack on the beach and they have managed to take Telegraph Cove into a worldwide business,” said McLean.
He added that Fraser and himself have each taken a guiding course, and invested in boating licenses, medical courses, and are in the process of getting the boat certified.
Mayor Jan Allen said she appreciated McLean and Fraser had taken the time to speak with council and suggest they connect with Polly Steele and Rose Klein-Beckman, the Village’s delegates to the North Island Tourism Committee.
“We can start with a few maybe this year and we can build into it next year,” said McLean, adding “Nobody has claimed first place in this derby,”
To learn more about sea otter tours in Port Alice visit SeaOtterEcoTours.com.