(Photo credit: Sonia Strobel, Skipper Otto team with fisher families)
Summer might seem pretty far off to most of you, but this is the time of year when fishing families start thinking about and planning for the fishing season ahead. And what better way to prepare than to spend a meaningful couple of days in person with some of our fishing families at the BC Young Fishermen’s Gathering. This annual event is a chance for young fishers to get together, learn some hands-on, practical fishing and safety skills, hear updates about the fishing season ahead, and share fears around the uncertain future of our industry. It’s also an important time to bond and build each other up for what is one of the toughest, most noble jobs I know -– the small-scale harvest of some of the lowest impact, highest nutrient protein on earth to share with family, friends, and community.
I was honoured to be invited to MC this year’s gathering. Standing up at that podium over the two days was an emotional experience, looking into the faces of a hundred or so fishers, their spouses, and their kids, many of them old friends, and many new faces, too, and hearing their personal stories. Beloved boats bought and sold, injuries, illnesses and dramatic recoveries, loved ones lost, babies born and the excitement about the next generation hauling in their first fish. And we heard the anxiety in the voices of area representatives as they shared the news about reduced fishing opportunities, expected closures, and the loss of shoreside support businesses in communities like Prince Rupert and Port Hardy. Some young harvesters wondered out loud “are we crazy for even getting into fishing with so much uncertainty? Should I just throw in the towel and go get a job in the oil patch?”
But without a doubt, what I witnessed in that room, what I heard from elders and long-time fishermen, what I saw in the laughter and the hugs and even in the tears, is that there is so much worth fighting for in our BC fishing communities. That even in this time of immense uncertainty and change, we will adapt and persist. Small-scale fishing is a way of life, a calling, and an identity. It is through the relationships they foster, with family, with their community, with their lived history, and with the planet, that their living set of values is expressed.
And as we look forward together to another fishing season, I’m so grateful to be part of this community. We will stand by our fishing families to support them, and to innovate and co-create a just, equitable, and resilient fishery and food system.
Written by: Sonia Strobel
Sonia - February 7, 2024
So Much Worth Fighting For: 2024 BC Young Fishermans Gathering
Sonia - February 7, 2024