Being a small fish in a big pond means that taking on a big fight is more of a challenge, but that hasn’t stopped Andy Schwaiger, owner of Ecosummer Expeditions, from doing what he can.
“We’re members of associations and we back many of their campaigns and write letters of support for initiatives that we believe in,” he says. “And we watch what’s going on where we go. Some things happen slowly and silently.”
As a sea kayak company owner who runs trips on British Columbia’s busy coastline to the Gulf Islands, Johnstone Strait and Gwaii Hanaas National Park Reserve, there are many issues that Schwaiger is keeping a close eye on. These include whales being poisoned by pollution, cruise ships and fishing boats jamming up Johnstone Strait, and poor logging practices on Vancouver Island rivers harming fish populations. Schwaiger has also protested to Gwaii Haanas National Park about off shore oil and gas exploration plans.
There are also the day-to-day responsibilities, such as properly dealing with all waste, following required practices and traveling respectfully around wildlife, on the land and in water. “We don’t shy from investing in being environmentally responsible,” he says, pointing to two composting toilets at the company’s Johnstone Strait campground. “It is what our clients expect from us. We have to live up to our own reputation.”
Schwaiger bought Ecosummer Expeditions in 2000. The company came with a history of environmental activism; born in a mid-1980’s fight to turn the south end of the Queen Charlotte Islands into what is today the Gwaii Hanaas National Park Reserve. The company’s founder stood with the Haida Gwaii First Nation blocking logging trucks from entering the untouched southern half of the islands. “It was a big event,” Schwaiger says. “They got everybody up there, all the employees and clients too.” The blockade made headlines across North America. “Everyone wanted to get up there,” Schwaiger says. Eventually, in 1988, the public pressure forced the province and government of Canada to designate the region a national park reserve.
Today, clients often ask Schwaiger’s guides what the company is doing for environmental stewardship. Although he cannot brag of a big campaign like his predecessor, he can say with confidence, that he is doing what he can. And if one day he needs to do more, he is ready for the challenge.
PHOTOS © ECOSUMMER EXPEDITIONS