BC Ferries says it will dramatically reduce the number of sailings this summer to accommodate a new “aquatic bear crossing” between Nanaimo and Newcastle Island.

The new protected zone, which extends from the north tip of Newcastle Island to Stephenson Point Lookout off Hammond Bay Road, will be a designated “safe space” for bears to swim, frolic, and have bear sex.

BC Ferries spokesperson Garry MacLeod said the need was identified Saturday, when the Queen of Oak Bay was stopped in Departure Bay at about 8:30 a.m. to let a bear swim in front of its path. “When we realized that this was a great opportunity for us to both reduce costs and pretend to care about the environment, it became kind of a no-brainer.”

Effective immediately, MacLeod says, the Departure Bay summer schedule will be reduced to just three sailings per day, to allow the bears safe passage across the zone. The revised schedule is now:

“We recognize this may be a small inconvenience to a handful of whiney Islanders, and that is why we assure you that we have only committed to this new habitat-protection schedule until the end of the busy tourism-packed summer,” explained MacLeod.

On the three remaining daily sailings, MacLeod said the windows would be taped up with opaque curtains, to provide nearby bears with privacy.

BC Ferries will offer alternative travel arrangements for those who are inconvenienced by the revised schedule, including the Queen of Hakuna Matata, temporarily chartered from the recent Silly Boats Regatta. The company says to expect extended wait times, as this vessel can only transport one passenger at a time.

The Queen of Hakuna Matata will be put into service to help relieve the backups expected to be caused by this new summer schedule.

Additionally, BC Ferries currently is holding a contest to name the new aquatic bear crossing. Current runners-up include “Albino Raccoon Channel,” “Bears Before Boats Inlet,” and “Bear Good. Ferry Bad Pass.”

A regional referendum this fall will decide the final name. Elections BC says it has set aside $941 million dollars to fund the referendum, coincidentally the same amount of money spent by the Nanaimo hospital for its upcoming week-long art installation.