Campbell River resident Roger McDonell and his partners in Stubbs Island Whale Watching, Heike Wieske and Geord Dunstan, have announced that the company will be closing its doors after 38 years of conducting marine wildlife tours out of Telegraph Cove. Stubbs Island Whale Watching photo.

Pioneering Telegraph Cove whale watching company cast adrift after 38 years

Stubbs Island Whale Watching announced it is ceasing operation

BC’s first whale watching company, Stubbs Island Whale Watching, is closing its doors after 38 years in business.

Known for its ethical wildlife viewing, education and conservation, the Telegraph Cove company has welcomed nearly half a million visitors to the North Island experience since it was established in 1980.

“We have enjoyed sharing the unique experience of seeing whales in the wild with visitors from all over the world,” Heike Wieske, president, Stubbs Island Whale Watching, said in a press release. “It is with heavy hearts that we are forced to cancel our 2019 season.”

The closure comes following an unexpected change in the company’s office space lease agreement with Telegraph Cove Resort after more than three decades operating from that location. The lease agreement will end on Jan. 31. Stubbs Island Whale Watching was put up for sale at the end of the 2018 season, but Wieske, along with co-owners Geord Dunstan and Roger McDonell, planned to continue operating the company until a purchaser was found. The changes to the lease agreement came as a surprise.

“Our 2018 season was the best season to date and we had significant growth in early pre-bookings for 2019,” said Wieske. “We are working to inform all of our booked guests as quickly as possible.”

RELATED: Island whale watching firms lead by example

Stubbs Island’s announcement today was quickly followed by an announcement by Telegraph Cove Resort that it was teaming up with Victoria-based Prince of Whales Whale & Marine Wildlife Adventures “to enhance marine wildlife habitat and research while providing greater opportunities for outstanding eco-tourism.”

Resort owners Gordie and Marilyn Graham said they are pleased to welcome one of the province’s “largest and most-respected whale watching and eco-adventure companies” to their recreational seaside haven. The release made no mention of their relationship with Stubbs Island.

“I’ve always been impressed by the Prince of Whales’ work in marine conservation and academic research,” Gordie said. “Their principled approach dovetails perfectly with our continuing efforts to protect marine wildlife while delighting and educating visitors with awe-inspiring experiences in nature.”

RELATED: B.C. whale-watching group uses surcharge to boost salmon, science for killer whales

The Grahams established a campground and marina at Telegraph Cove in 1979, drawing enthusiasts to the great recreational ocean fishing. Over 40 years, their work restoring original buildings for tourist accommodation has brought life back to the former sawmill town. Today, the resort, which can accommodate up to 500 guests, also includes a restaurant and pub, general store, small hotel and Telegraph Cove’s Whale Interpretative Centre.

RELATED: Explore Telegraph Cove, Sointula and Alert Bay with the Museum at Campbell River

One of the last boardwalk settlements left on Vancouver Island, Telegraph Cove attracts thousands of whale watchers, fishermen, boaters, campers and kayakers every year.

As well as building a tourist mecca, 210 km northwest of Campbell River, the Grahams have invested in marine life protection and education, donating more than $150,000 to salmon enhancement projects.

Meanwhile, Stubbs Island Whale Watching is informing reservations holders of the change and attempting to shift reservations to Discovery Marine Safaris in Campbell River, a smaller company owned by one of the three owners of Stubbs Island Whale Watching. Guests looking for information can call: 1-250-928-3185

Stubbs Island Charters Ltd. started whale watching in 1980 out of Telegraph Cove and has worked to establish a reputation as a company that puts the wildlife first. The company supported research and education efforts, providing meaningful education to guests, modeling best practices, and sharing expertise to help build a community now known as the North Island Marine Mammal Stewardship Association. For the past six years it has received a “Certificate of Excellence” from Trip Advisor for its many five-star reviews.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Vancouver Island business ad unintentionally features OK gesture linked to white supremacy

Innocuous ‘OK’ gesture in cleaning franchise advertisement gets flak on social media for ‘supposedly’ promoting white supremacy

RCMP disarm man experiencing mental health crisis

The male pulled a knife on officers and then held it to his own throat expressing a desire to die

Mowi’s B.C. salmon farms achieve environmental certification from independent watchdog

Aquaculture Steward Council certification complies with 500 sustainability and social measures

Zeballos and Tahsis included in $3.46 million provincial emergency preparedness funding

The provincial funding will help 24 local governments and First Nations to assess flood hazards and develop effective strategies

Small group of volunteers clean up Campbell River beach

Other events held in Nanaimo, Comox, Powell River and Victoria

B.C. identifies 20 new COVID-19 cases, travellers specified in count

Pandemic total 3,028 cases, 51 people from outside Canada

Campaign aims to raise $50K for young family of deceased Vancouver Island skydiver

James Smith, 34, died July 5 following incident in Nanoose Bay

Mirror business directory and map

If you’d like to be added to the list, shoot us an email

Survey, hotline launched amid probe into racist blood-alcohol guessing game at B.C. hospital

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond has been appointed to lead an investigation by Health Minister Adrian Dix

Canadian policing organization calls for decriminalization of simple illicit drug possession

Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police want policing focus of opioid crisis to be replaced with a health one

B.C. ports part of data integration project to protect marine ecosystems

The $1.2 M federally funded program will draw crucial baseline data from Canada’s three coastlines

Filing deadline in RCMP sexual-harassment class-action extended due to COVID-19

Plaintiffs now have until January 2021 to submit claims for up to $222,000

Jamie Bacon pleads guilty to charge in Surrey Six case

The plea brings an end to a complex legal case that has spanned more than a decade

Hefty undeclared driver charges piling up, ICBC warns customers

Average extra penalty $2,971 after an at-fault accident

Most Read