Marcie has been fascinated by whales since a young age. First inspired by “Free Willy”, she later picked up a copy of “Orca: The Whale Called Killer” by Erich Hoyt and came to know and love the Resident Orcas. Marcie lives in Ahousaht, a tiny Reserve community, 35 minutes (by boat) north-west of Tofino, BC. Marcie and her husband, Lennie, own and operate Keltsmaht Enterprises, a water taxi, whale watching and hotsprings tour company. She splits her time between boat life, her garden and their 6 furbabies. Check out Marcie’s website at https://marciecallewaert.wordpress.com/
Where did your whale love start?
My love for whales began around the age of 5 with the film Free Willy. Shortly after that my parents took me to the Vancouver Aquarium to see the orcas. I didn’t feel any sort of strong connection with the whales there. Not while viewing them anyways.
I saw my first wild whales at age 14 while hiking the Cape Scott Trail with my Dad. They were out at the mouth of the bay and their dorsal fins were just little triangles, but to me, it was the most magnificent thing I had seen and I was completely awe-struck.
What current ocean conservation issue do you feel most strongly about?
I am involved in a few different conservation projects. The two I am most passionate about are ocean debris and fish farms.
This summer my water taxi company was involved in the Surfrider Pacific Rim Hanjin Debris Clean Up. We offered our services at cost and transported large amounts of debris off the beaches in our boat. It was amazing to see the freshly cleaned beaches throughout Clayoquot Sound. I was so excited to witness the removal of the debris supersacs from Flores Island as they were loaded onto a barge by a helicopter. Marine debris affects everything from massive whales who can become entangled in “ghost gear” to fish and birds who mistakenly eat smaller pieces of plastics and can die from malnutrition, even with a full stomach! On a personal note, our honeymoon this summer was spent on a remote island in Clayoquot Sound that had just been cleaned as a part of this campaign. It was so nice to relax on the beach without stressing about all the garbage lying about! The odd piece we did find along the tide-line, we plopped into the supersacs that were awaiting their pick up later in the summer.
My husband and I are very involved in the campaign to end fish farming on the BC Coast. We strongly believe that farming salmon in open-net pens in our waters is having a negative impact on wild salmon species. It is rare that I actually get to participate first hand in direct action – My husband gets to do all the fun stuff, however, by staying home and running our business and home, I can make it possible for him to spend weeks away at a time for occupations.
What have you changed in your life to help save whales?
I make a lot of conscious decisions in my lifestyle to protect our environment. From not buying single-use water bottles, and refusing straws and single use plastics, to detouring on our boat to scoop garbage out of the water; every choice we make has an impact on the environment. I also make a point to educate those who I see littering or polluting our environment to try and inspire change in others around me.
One environmental principle I think is important for everyone to keep in mind is Hiishuuk ish Tsawalk, which means “Everything is One”. This comes from the Nuu-Chah-Nulth language and has been a guiding principle to environmental stewardship along the coast throughout the years. Saving the whales means saving the wolves, the eagles and the salmon too.
What advice would you give to others to take steps in their lives to help whales?
I think it’s important for everyone to know that every choice you make has an impact. If we all protect what we love, there will be a huge global shift in attitudes. We can’t let our responsibilities to the Earth slide. We must do our part to protect the planet and marine neighbours.
Any whale tales to share? (what’s your favourite one you’ve already shared?)
It’s so difficult to choose just one great story… Every day is a new adventure and that’s certainly true when it comes to whales!
I guess one of my favourites has to be a surprise encounter with a particular group of transients. We were travelling from Hotsprings Cove to Tofino with a group of local passengers. It was a pretty nasty day with a strong chop and pounding rain. I was sitting in the front passenger seat, and out of nowhere a large black form started rising out of the water just off our starboard bow. My husband and I thought it was a dead head bouncing in the chop. He threw the boat in reverse and as he did so the form kept on rising. Suddenly a back emerged from the water too and I recognized the M-shaped notches of T074’s distinctive fin. We turned off the engine and I headed to the back of the boat to see where the others were. T074 usually travels with the T073’s and I knew they would be close by. Immediately a ghostly figure cruised past the side of the boat. It was one of the females rolling on her side and looking up at me, hanging over the edge. As soon as she had her look, she turned, without surfacing, and moved off to scour the shoreline for seals again.
My favourite orca photo I have ever taken is still featured on my business card, 5 years after it was taken. I was shooting with a whale watching company out of Victoria. J Pod was travelling well off our starboard side in the Salish Sea. Out of nowhere, J27, Blackberry, turned and cut across the stern of the vessel. I was in the perfect vantage point to shoot over the heads of the crowd of passengers and capture him rising through the glassy waters. His rostrum was still covered with a film of water as he exhaled. To top it off, the sun was at the perfect angle to create a “rainblow” in the mist. I’m pretty sure I fist-pumped in excitement when I reviewed my photos and saw that I got the shot!
(PS: Check out all of Marcie’s amazing whale tales here)