People often do not think about how food arrives on their plates. They go to the grocery store, produce market, or the fishmonger and make their purchases. While visiting the BC Seafood Festival, I toured an oyster, geoduck and salmon farm. I wrote about my experience. Unbeknownst to me, I created a platform for discussion about a very controversial subject—salmon farms in BC. It became a learning opportunity and led to an exciting adventure with British Columbia’s First Nations people.

British Columbia's First Nations people

Salmon farm near Vancouver Island, BC. Photo by Tracy Ellen Beard

A Positive Perspective

Several good things came out of the uproar of feedback. I learned a great deal about both sides of the salmon farm debate. I have a new respect for the land and the sea. And finally, I was invited to Vancouver Island by a member of the First Nations people to get a first-hand look at the role salmon play in the circle of life on and near the island.

British Columbia's First Nations people

Gilford Island Bighouse. Photo courtesy of Sea Wolf Adventures

A Few Days in Port McNeil

My daughter Brittney and I made our way north on Vancouver Island to Port McNeil. We lodged at the Black Bear Resort only a block from the waterfront. The hotel featured all the usual amenities but exceeded our expectations with an indoor heated pool, jacuzzi tub, and continental breakfast.

Black Bear Lodge

Black Bear Lodge. Photo courtesy of Black Bear Lodge

Several tasty eateries are open in the neighborhood for breakfast, lunch or dinner. However, if you bring your supplies, or make a quick stop at the nearby Marketplace IGA, you can take advantage of the resort’s spacious lawn that overlooks the waterfront and prepare your meals using the onsite grill and picnic table.

On our first night, Brittney and I dined at Gus’s Pub just down the street. After enjoying some delicious wings and a cocktail, we settled in for the night in anticipation of our adventure the next day.

A New and Adventurous View of the Island

Early in the morning, we headed down to the waterfront to meet our host, Mike Willie, owner of Sea Wolf Adventures. Mike treats people and nature with hospitality and deference. He understands the need for local jobs, worldwide demand for salmon, cost of sustainability, and the controversial debate regarding salmon farming. Mike’s primary goal is to share his own love as well as First Nation’s love and respect for the local landscape. He also strives to help others learn about the spiritual side of his people’s connection with wildlife in the area.

British Columbia's First Nations people

Mike Willy, owner of Sea Wolf Adventures. Photo courtesy of Sea Wolf Adventures

After boarding Mike’s boat with other guests from around the world, we motored along weaving through the islands. Several times we spied humpback whales in the distance. Mike was careful to stay a healthy distance from the enormous mammals maintaining their safety and ours.

British Columbia's First Nations People

Whales abound. Photo courtesy of Sea Wolf Adventures

After an hour or so, we stopped on an island and visited Mimkwamlis, the ancestral village of the Mamalilikulla First Nation. We hiked out over the land and observed the remains of the tribal home and fishing areas. Mike pointed out the medicinal plants and the ones that were eaten by his ancestors.

British Columbia's First Nations people

The ancestral village of the Mamalilikulla First Nation. Photo by Tracy Ellen Beard

A Bear’s Life

The initial reason for visiting during August was so that we could hike across one of the islands to the river and watch the bears catch and feed on the salmon. Unfortunately, the summer months left the rivers extremely low, and the lack of water prevented the salmon from swimming upstream. Mike was adamant about showing us the various animals in the area, and he continued to scour the land until he succeeded.

Salmon lunch - British Columbia's First Nations people

Lunchtime at the river. Photo courtesy of Sea Wolf Adventures

Wildlife is amazingly resourceful. Typically, bears gorge on salmon from August into the fall months to fatten up for the winter. We were fortunate to spot one black bear in the morning and a brown bear in the afternoon. Both were scavenging along the shoreline feasting on shellfish.

British Columbia's First Nations people

Bear Scavenging on the shore. Photo courtesy of Sea Wolf Adventures

Large bears can consume up to 40 salmon, or 100 pounds in one day. I can’t imagine calculating how many clam and mussel shells they would have to pry open to get enough meat to equal 100 pounds of food.

Bears catching salmon - British Columbia's First Nations people

Fishing for lunch. Photo courtesy of Sea Wolf Adventures

A Look into the Future

Mike spent the day describing the traumas and triumphs of British Columbia’s First Nations people while we boated throughout the waterways passing various islands. He shared how important it is to sustain the wild salmon population, preserve the land, and protect all wildlife to maintain a healthy natural ecosystem.

Throughout the day I savored the opportunity to gaze upon the pristine waters and lush landscape. We watched bald and juvenile eagles soar through the sky, and we even spied an eagle’s nest. We spotted seals and sea lions on the shore and watched other sea creatures gliding through the waters. The clean air and quiet stillness created a perfect paradise.

British Columbia's First Nations people

Relaxing in the sunshine. Photo courtesy of Sea Wolf Adventures

A New Appreciation for British Columbia’s First Nations People

Mike and Sea Wolf Adventures do a fantastic job of revealing the wonders of northern Vancouver Island to visiting guests. Everyone should visit the area to gain a new appreciation for nature and a better understanding of the role people play in both preserving and destroying wildlife and the environment.

British Columbia's First Nations People

A bald eagle in flight. Photo courtesy of Sea Wolf Adventures

Although we did not uncover a solution for protecting wild salmon, or for meeting the worldwide demand for this delicious fish, we gained a new appreciation for wildlife, enjoyed a fabulous adventure, and came home with a better understanding of our role in preserving the world’s precious resources.

We’ve had many opportunities as writers to explore British Columbia here on Wander. We hope you enjoy more of our explorations there!


As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with accommodations, meals, tours and other compensation for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.

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