Nimmo Bay Resort
“You always have to be on the cutting edge,” says Craig Murray, the owner and operator of Nimmo Bay. “If you’re not than you shouldn’t be in the game.” While it’s a recipe for success in any business, Murray is also talking about a deeper and more important meaning. For 26 years his remote lodge on the mainland coast has been setting the standard for sustainable, environmentally conscious tourism.
“Guests demand it,” he says. “People want to take care of the environment today and they want the businesses they deal with to be doing something for the environment too.”
Since it was opened in 1980, long before they were the norm, Nimmo Bay used small hydro for power, guests practiced catch and release fishing, recycling was a standard practice and educating guests on how to be sustainable was par for the trip. In 2000, Murray installed a state of the art Hydroxyl waste management system that takes gray and black water and turns it back into drinkable water. “Nothing goes back into the environment,” he says proudly. “I regularly take guests on tours of the hydroxyl system. People like to know that you’re doing things like this.”
All his efforts have been noticed, with several awards and nominations for environmental tourism and business practices. And in 2005 Nimmo Bay became the first company to sign an environmental protocol agreement with the Ministry of the Environment. However, everything that Murray had won or done was just a preamble to last fall.
Since 2001, Alexandra Morton, an independent scientist, discovered infestations of sea lice on wild salmon smolts in the Broughton Archipelago, a salmon rich maze of islands between Vancouver Island and the mainland coast. She pointed the blame at the open net salmon farms that litter the archipelago, but besides a few tourism operators like Murray, her concerns fell on deaf ears. After a couple of bad salmon runs government officials started to take notice and conducted some studies, but did little to help the salmon.
“There is a serious problem that exists and the governments still have not fully recognized the problem,” Murray says. At first, he urged sport fishing and tourism associations to write letters demanding action. He also contributed his own money to research, in order to prove a correlation. But neither action had the desired effect, so he turned to prime time television to help out.
Some of the cast of ABC’s Boston Legal have been Nimmo Bay guests. Last fall, Murray arranged for the TV show to film an episode at Nimmo Bay about reacquainting the American angler with the beauty and potential of British Columbia. The episode made front-page news across the country and 15-million Americans watched the show itself. However, the Canadian media’s focus was on the sea lice and wild salmon problem instead of the opportunity to draw U.S. tourists to B.C.
The controversy did have its fine points though. “When U.S. people take notice about a Canadian problem politicians in this country do something about it,” Murray says.
The issue is a complicated one, and for every few steps toward a better system there are steps taken back. First the positive: Two separate studies are looking into if and how salmon farming and wild salmon can coexist on the coast; Marine Harvest, a salmon farming giant, and the Coastal Association for Aquaculture Reform are working on an agreement to fund farm site fallowing research; and the provincial government is promising compensation to salmon farms that lose money fallowing out sites during the smolt migration. At the same time, two new farm sites are in the works in the Broughton Archipelago, much to Murray’s dismay. “It’s disheartening to hear that,” he says. “A lot of time, effort and attention is going to be needed to solve this problem.”
Fortunately for the wild salmon, Murray is determined to fight until there is a sustainable system, and he’s not alone. “The world is recognizing that sustainability is important,” Murray says. “If we want to keep playing the game we have to set some new rules.”
PHOTOS © NIMMO BAY RESORT