One local charter company had a rough start to the summer, but hopes next season will be bigger and better.
Screamin’ Reels Fishing and Charters had been escorting kayaking clients to Foch-Gilttoyees Provincial Park and Protected Area, after seemingly clarifying with Parks BC that they didn’t need a park pass due to the fact that they were not acting as guides on the expedition.
“Our model is that we don’t do guiding… we’re not legal guides,” said owner and operator Brenda Miller. “We essentially wanted to open up the (Douglas) Channel to locals through kayaking.”
“Every single great place to kayak here is a provincial park, so we initially went about two years ago to (Parks BC)… and we were told that we didn’t need a pass, because we weren’t guiding. And apparently that wasn’t true,” she explained.
After one of the company’s trip to Foch Inlet, BC Parks received a complaint from someone, and ordered Screamin’ Reels to cease and desist their expeditions into provincial parks until they received a permit.
“’We had actually planned an entire summer of being down in Union Passage,” said Miller. Union Passage Marine Provincial Park is a 1,373 hectare park 12 kilometres from Hartley Bay.
Miller said they tried to acquire a temporary permit from BC Parks, in order to continue with their original plans, but BC Parks does not offer those.
BC Parks apologized to the company for the mix up with the necessity of permits, but with no way of getting a temporary pass, the company has to go through the proper channels to acquire one.
“We are going through the permits process, but it does take quite a number of months, 140 days at a minimum,” explained Miller.
The BC Ministry of Environment, which is responsible for BC Parks, gave an emailed statement to the Northern Sentinel regarding the miscommunication with Screamin’ Reels.
“BC Parks met with the owner operator of Screamin’ Reels fishing and charter company on July 8, 2016, to discuss and clarify the requirements under the Park Act with respect to commercial operations, and the requirement to have a valid Park Use Permit if conducting a commercial business/guiding within the boundaries of a Park, Protected Area or Conservancy,” the statement reads.
“BC Parks encouraged the operator to submit a Park Use Permit application if they are interested in operating a commercial business within a Park, Protected Area or Conservancy. BC Parks explained that Screamin’ Reels fishing and charter company can provide opportunities to clients outside of Parks, Protected Areas or Conservancy boundaries, and if they chose to do that, no Park Use Permit is required,” it goes on to say.
In the meantime, the company is doing just that. They have an agreement with a logging camp on Loretta Island, which is about 50 metres from the Sue Channel Provincial Park boundary.
“We just approached them on a whim and they were really sympathetic to our plight and were like, ‘yup, park (your equipment) here,’… so thank God for that, because otherwise we probably would’ve sold up and that would’ve been it,” said Miller.
“Our clients can go wherever they like in our equipment, because essentially they’re renting our equipment, but (Screamin’ Reels employees) are not allowed to. We can’t have our main vessel or drop off and pick up anywhere within park boundaries,” she added.
Miller describes the situation as being “shut out of (her) own backyard,” which she said is really frustrating. She believes that kayak tourism has become a cash grab, making it inaccessible to many people.
“It’s become something for rich tourists, and we’re trying to make it very accessible for our local population,” she said.
She expects that the company will have all of their correct permitting in place for next summer, and will be able to offer trips into provincial parks that many people don’t even know exist along the channel. There are also in discussions with the Hartley Bay Gitga’at First Nation to make sure they have full permission to access their traditional lands.