The past year has brought huge challenges. Adapting to the changes COVID has brought has been particularly difficult for coastal communities throughout BC. Looking back on the past year our team is proud of what we were able to accomplish in a world where all the rules have changed. We’re looking forward to continuing to support healthy ecosystems and communities in 2021.
TBuck was fortunate to be able to host two meaningful in-person events early this year. The 2020 BC Young Fishermen’s Gathering in Nanaimo was our largest BC-focused event yet, bringing in 100 participants involved in the BC fishing industry. In February the two-day Fisheries for Communities Gathering 2.0 brought together over 120 individuals from diverse backgrounds, including Indigenous and non-Indigenous fish harvesters, academics, NGOs, industry associations, First Nations leaders, provincial and federal government officials, and policy experts to discuss issues, share experiences, and explore change needed to revitalize our coast, now and in the future.
COVID has fundamentally altered daily life this year. Beyond the economic impact, our summer survey of coastal communities clearly shows mental health issues as a key concern: fear, anxiety, conflict and isolation are affecting coastal peoples like never before.
TBuck has supported the COVID Active Fishermen’s Committee with weekly zoom calls, and followed up with federal and provincial governments on actions to support our fisheries and harvesters. Flexibility in fisheries management and a $470M fisheries relief package have helped harvesters through a devastating season.
Oil spill prevention in the Skeena Estuary
A ship dragging its anchor is in danger of sustaining damage to the hull and leaking oil. TBuck has focused on mitigating the chances of oil spills in the Skeena Estuary by advocating that Prince Rupert Harbour adopt extra precautions for anchoring ships. Prince Rupert Harbour is Canada’s third busiest port, and the adjacent Skeena Estuary is a vital habitat. This year TBuck commissioned a report identifying the risks of a spill, as well as key recommendations for the harbour to adopt including:
- Directing ships to leave the inner harbour when high wind is forecast.
- Warning ships of poor holding ground in the inner harbour.
- Providing a clear option for ships to leave the inner harbour when wind is forecast to be above safe levels.
Every now and then fishing gear is lost or must be abandoned. Ghost gear is a significant ocean pollutant, and losing valuable gear is a hardship for fishermen. This spring TBuck received $530 000 in funding from DFO to map gear loss hotspots, identify best practices for gear loss prevention, and retrieve lost gear. Staff are consulting with local fishermen to gather knowledge on what gear is being lost, where, and why it’s happening. Knowledge on the logistics of gear loss will help TBuck compile and share best practice information among harvesters to prevent loss in the future.
Next year TBuck will be facilitating gear retrievals led by fishermen. Recovered gear will be returned to the harvester who owns it if possible. Unusable gear will be recycled.
Survey of BC fishermen
In order to advocate for fishermen we need to have a clear understanding of their needs and concerns. TBuck collaborated with Ocean Canada and UBC to conduct a survey that would identify areas of concern and satisfaction along the BC coast. The survey results were published this November. The main concerns harvesters identified through this survey include exclusion from decision-making & management, lack of support from government, insecurity of rights, inability to access government subsidies, and finding qualified crew. This information is being used by TBuck and our partners to advocate for access reforms on behalf of harvesters.
New faces on the TBuck team
Cailyn Siider is the new Community Development Director at TBuck. Cailyn is a fifth-generation commercial fish harvester from the community of Sointula, a settler community in Kwakwaka’wakw territory. She is proud to be an active fish harvester. She has also studied Peace and Conflict Studies, with a focus on social and environmental justice, as well as transformative change processes. She has a deep and practical understanding of the complexities of commercial fishing from her life-long involvement in the industry. Cailyn is bringing her passion for coastal communities, the ecosystems they co-exist with to her work strengthening connections between B.C.’s coastal communities and coordinating the B.C. Young Fishermen’s Network.
Hannah Fiegenbaum is the new TBuck communications manager. Hannah grew up on the east coast in the state of Massachusetts. Her interest in the diversity of ocean life brought her to UBC where she earned a B.Sc. in Biology. After completing her degree her focus was set on fostering links between conservation and social justice. She has directed programming and communications for community lead cycling organizations in Vancouver. She has also had the pleasure of sharing the beauty of the BC coast with hundreds of visitors as a marine naturalist. Hannah is passionate about sharing the work of TBuck, and the stories of our coastal communities with the world.