Campbell River teen's 'face-buffs' helping wildlife watchers stay safe
CAMPBELL RIVER, B.C. -- Although international customers are out of the mix right now, Vancouver Island's whale watching companies are doing their best to survive with just local visitors.
The industry introduced its own COVID-19 protocols in order to get back up and running and the efforts of a 15-year-old Campbell River girl are playing a role in those precautions.
Claire MacKinnon-Nelson volunteered her art skills to sketch out the orca and humpback whales that adorn the "face-buffs" being used by passengers to social distance on the whale watching vessels.
"I think it's pretty cool, I messed around with them a lot but I just did two final versions and yeah, I'm happy with them. I think they look good," she says.
Two dozen whale and wildlife tour operators on the island collaborated on the protocols and knew that face masks of some sort would be required, but they didn't want to take the valuable items away from medical professionals, so the idea of the buffs was born.
"What she's done in my opinion is the essence of a lot of these businesses, even some of the ones that are very large and started out as family-operated companies, we've got a 15-year-old more than willing to donate her art to something like that for a restart plan. It's a happy story," says Claire's father Leigh Nelson.
Nelson operates Adventure Quest Canada, a water taxi and wildlife viewing company that, like others on the island, hands out the buffs to whale watching customers.
"Last I heard we're up to about 18, 20,000 of them I believe, and they're being handed out everywhere from Victoria, Vancouver, Tofino, Campbell River, Telegraph Cove, Port McNeill, Port Hardy. They're all over the place," he says.