SKGABC Meeting with Senate Subcommittee on Fisheries and Oceans

18 November, 2010

View the full Senate report.

Senator Bill Rompkey, chair of the committee (Newfoundland and Labrador - C)
Senator Michael MacDonald (Nova Scotia - C)
Senator Elizabeth Hubley (Prince Edward Island - Lib)
Senator Lowell Murray (Ontario - PC)
Senator Nancy Greene Raine (British Columbia - C)

Print SKGABC factsheet, letter, Tourism BC study and put all on CD


Good afternoon senators, thank you for this meeting and for coming to our coast to see first-hand the area that we live and work in. My name is Rick Snowdon, current president of the SKGABC, an industry association representing sea kayak tour guides and company owners. My comments are also informed from my experience as owner of Spirit of the West Adventures, a guided sea kayak tour company based on Quadra Island, just across Discovery Passage from here, and my own background as a guide for almost 10 years on the BC coast, and an active mariner for another six or seven before that, including time working for the coast guard in rescue stations on the Great Lakes.

I would like to present to you today the position of the SKGABC on the topic of staffing of lighthouses. I hope you will take into consideration the point of view of a group of mariners that lies somewhat outside the traditional sea-going community (with acknowledgements to our Inuit predecessors).

The Alliance was formed in 1994 as an effort to self-regulate the growing sea kayaking industry in BC. Our mission is to establish, promote and maintain high standards of sea kayaking safety, conduct and representation through an alliance of professionals.

We represent trained guides and tour operators in BC. We strive to be the professional body for sea kayaking in Canada, and serve our members through training and professional development as well as liaising with government agencies with respect to operating in national parks and other land use issues.

We currently have over 700 active members, including over 50 company members

Size of industry: I will refer you to the Tourism BC report that you have here, the executive summary printed and the entire report on CD. In 2005, the last year that I have accurate statistics for, our particular sector of the adventure tourism market served 70 000 clients and generated nearly $15m in direct revenue, that is, not including revenue from hotels, meals, car rentals, flights and so on. You will note that these numbers do not include the recreational sea kayaking community, whose numbers are estimated to be approximately 150000 across Canada.

In broad strokes, our activity is focused around Vancouver Island, especially the Broken Group (PacRim), Clayoquot Sound, the Gulf Islands and Johnstone Strait, the industry is distributed across the province, including the central and north coasts and Haida Gwaii.

Formation of the alliance was spurred by a 1993 incident in Haida Gwaii, and to date there is an emphasis on safety. You will note on the factsheet I have provided that we conduct a variety of training and professional development activities and provide opportunities for guides to take on further training in order to provide safe trips. As trained as we are, resources that we can carry with us are limited, thus it is our position that:

  • Lightkeepers, as a presence on the coast and a network of individuals providing services to mariners, are a key resource in our ability to provide safe trips for our clientele and respond to emergencies when required. Specifically,
  • Lightkeepers provide reliable accurate real time weather info
    • Ie visibility and sea state diff than combined swell height, which offers no indication of how rough it is
    • Not susceptible to outages as buoys are
  • Human presence in remote areas
    • Search/rescue assistance
    • Relaying radio calls
    • Offering sanctuary
  • To a lesser degree, they are also ambassadors of coast guard, heritage maintenance

Lighthouses are in strategic locations of increased risk, due to remoteness, weather, exposure or currents.

A couple of examples of situations where lightkeepers have been instrumental in the detection and rescue of kayakers are included in the SKGABC factsheet. Another published case that I can share with you occurred this summer when a group member sustained severe burns in a stove malfunction. The lightkeepers at Chatham Pt responded to the call for help and were able to provide burn dressings in a quantity that the responding coast guard rescue vessel could not.

Another example of lightkeeper assistance would be that of the keeper relaying a radio call from Nuchatlitz via Nootka lighthouse to Gold River saved SAR costs

In my personal experience, while stationed at an automated lighthouse on the Great Lakes I have:

  • offered sanctuary to stranded paddlers
  • answered mayday calls while MCTS system down

These are only a couple of instances that we were involved in rescues, but are specifically related to the fact that we were located at a lighthouse in a strategic location.

With that, I thank you for your interest in this issue, and I hope you will consider the kayaking industry's needs in your deliberations.

Other Notes:

Other current SKGABC projects: wildlife guidelines, laminated guide reference card, e-book version of the manual, revamp exchange model, revamping website, supplemental liability insurance, reciprocal recognition with other national certifying bodies, eg. the NZOIA.

Wartman in National Post article August 23 2010 defends significant decline in weather forecasting reliability due to automation as per report by Pembina Institute in June 2008.

Late Steve Berg, past president of the BC Lightkeepers Assn, presented to you on May 4 of this year, submitting his job description and describing how lightkeepers are integral and involved in the attainment of the general objectives of the coast guard.

In a letter dated November 12, 2010, the local CAW representing MCTS operators expressed the opinion that the weather, communication and safety services provided by lightkeepers were invaluable, and any decrease in the level of services would have adverse results.

Lights I have depended on: Trial Island, Entrance Island, Cape Mudge, Chatham Pt, Nootka, Cape Scott, Estevan Pt, Lennard Island, Pine Island, Pulteney Pt they are a network of reporting stations, navigational aids and resource stations. Can't prioritize any over the others.