The Ethics of Ecotourism

By Roy L Hales


Having served in the Arctic with the Coast Guard driven zodiacs at fast speed, Mike Moore seemed like the perfect choice to guide people in the Antarctic – only he was troubled by the emissions he would create flying to and back from his job. That was one of many challenges we discussed in the Ethics of Ecotourism.

The Ethics of Ecotourism

Samantha Moore showing children around Mitlenatch Island Nature Park - Courtesy Misty Isles Adventures
Samantha Moore showing children around Mitlenach Island Nature Park – Courtesy Misty Isles Adventures

Moore missed two seasons in the Antarctic before he and his wife Samantha came up with the idea of taxing themselves $50 a ton for the CO2 emissions they create. They give the money to charities.

“We donate to Sea Shepherd and sponsor the rat eradication program a hectare on South Georgia Island. Wherever sailing ships went, rats went with them, and they have been decimating seabird populations world over. South Georgia is just an incredible wildlife area, with albatross, prions, petrels and penguins nesting there and the rats are really hazardous to their eggs and chicks,” said Moore.

“When you go to the dinner table on a ship where people have spent tens of thousands of dollars to do their dream trip to the Antarctic and you broach this subject, you don’t want to come off like you’re dissing them. If you approach this subject with integrity, then it comes off pretty well. People fly around without thinking about it. If I can say you are paying more for this one trip than I make in a year and I tax myself based on the amount of carbon I produce on this trip, it strikes a cord with a lot of people.”

He applies the same formula to Misty Isles Adventures, the ecotourism business that he has operated out of Cortes Island, BC, since 1997. He taxes himself for fuel they use in their schooner “Misty Isles” and his work vehicles, and gives the money to local organizations like the Georgia Strait Alliance and Friends of Cortes Island (FOCI).


Mike Moore - courtesy Misty Isles Adventures
Mike Moore – courtesy Misty Isles Adventures

Moore describes his job as “infotainment.”

“Our stories and the way we live are entertaining, certainly, but it is also informative. We try to make that part of our trips and I think that is part of our branding.”

“I have no qualms about putting up links to films that we have done regarding logging on our website.

“Does that belong on a tourism website?

“Actually, it’s part of our branding.  I don’t think I have ever lost a seat to a logger who went, ‘Oppps, I’m not going because of their politics.'”

The Healing Nature of Forests & Oceans

Moore says he can’t comment about “the healing nature of the forest,” or the ocean, because that is where he lives.

He feels totally out of place in cities.

“What I do see is that people respond very quickly when they spend an afternoon on Misty Isles. One of my favourite things is doing our five day mothership day tripping workshop through Hollyhock. We go to someplace beautiful every day, paddle, and then come back to Hollyhock and a hot tub and dinner.”

“On opening night when we’re all sitting around and talking about expectations, people can be quite antsy: ‘Well, I want to make sure I get enough paddling,” or I want to do this, or I wanna do that. Then on day two, it’s like ‘this is so nice.” All they want to do is listen to stories and drink tea and do a little paddling.”

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Top Photo Credit: The Antarctic – Courtesy of Misty Isles Adventures

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