Ecotrust Canada President Brenda Kuecks reports back from the Transboundary Gathering recently held in Prince Rupert:

In agriculture country, spring is the time to prepare soil, sow seeds and experiment with new hybrid varietals to see if they can flourish in local growing conditions. In non-profit country it seems it is also the time to for seed sowing and idea experimentation. Who can predict what new varietal might flourish in the form of an unexpected collaboration or a shared purpose action or an unexpected ‘ah ha’ moment when smart, dedicated, purposeful folks come together to share time and food and experience.

Over the course of this spring, Ecotrust Canada staff has participated in several inspiring and potentially important networking events – testing the story of our experiences in these new landscapes and finding exciting new allies and co-conspirators in unusual places. Amanda Barney (Marine Monitoring Manager) went to Chile to discuss fisheries monitoring with service providers from around the world and to share our work. Tasha Sutcliffe (Vice President and Fisheries and Marine Director) attended Food Secure Canada’s ‘Food, Fish, Farm and Finance Summit’ in Toronto, where producer groups and financiers discussed challenges and generated strategies for change. Lorin Gaertner (Knowledge Systems and Planning Manager) spent time at the First Nations Technology Council Conference in Vancouver, meeting with experts and user groups who use technology to support development in community and human development arenas. Eric Enno Tamm visited Tampa (ThisFish Communications & Marketing, Manager Traceability Initiative) – he says never the beach! – to talk seafood traceability with a host of seafood industry reps, businesses and academics as part of the North American Association of Fisheries Economists Conference. And I had the good fortune to spend time in Prince Rupert with an amazing group of people representing shared marine and coastal interests across the bioregion from Washington to Alaska.

The Transboundary Gathering, organized by Tides Canada, Ecotrust Canada, the Alaska Conservation Foundation (ACF) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) created a working opportunity for partners and players to explore commonalities, discuss strategies, and share stories in a safe and relaxed ‘open-space’ environment.  Each of the 40 some participants, representing regional, local, Aboriginal, community and organizational interests and initiatives, quickly found they had a tremendous amount in common. The group talked at length about the economic, social and cultural opportunities associated with the abundant marine ecosystems of our shared coast, and explored the threats associated with exploitation, pollution and industrial development.

Participants quickly discovered a deep and abiding shared language – a language rooted in acknowledging the power of people who are committed to places. This shared language finds it impossible to describe a healthy ecosystem without talking about the human community living alongside; and it sparks an immediate, almost visceral shared realization that adjacent communities will flourish or perish based upon our collective marine resource and coastal ecosystem decisions and actions.

Even though the group was just as quickly able to acknowledge that our vastly different cultures, politics, regulatory regimes, and histories makes collaboration more challenging at times than negotiating for international peace, we were unstoppable in our quest to find ways to make our shared coast safer, cleaner, more abundant and more productive.  Over two plus days we talked about a shared approach to data collection; a coastal climate change response strategy; a way to share best practices; and a means to connect First Nations economic opportunity across national boundaries. Working groups were formed and will continue over the next few months to flesh out ideas and strategies.

It was a pleasure to participate and I look forward to seeing some of these new varietals grow into crazy, radiant bloom.  Thank you to the organizers, the incredible local food purveyors, the facilitator and all the fellow travellers with whom I had the good fortune to spend this time.