Fisheries bring a wealth of value to coastal communities, delivering healthy, sustainable seafood, widespread economic benefits, and a connection to local ecosystems. However, over the past several decades, Pacific fisheries have suffered due to federal policies that shift the benefits of fishing away from harvesters and their communities, and toward vertically integrated national and foreign companies and speculative investors.
Fisheries for Communities is a grassroots movement made up of concerned Indigenous and non-Indigenous fish harvesters and their families, small businesses, community organizations, fishmongers, chefs, restaurateurs, coastal community members, academics and researchers that all share a commitment to ensure the many tangible and intangible benefits of BC’s commercial fisheries benefit the people on the water, on the dock, and in adjacent communities.
Over two days, more than 160 participants from a wide range of organizations and independent enterprises gathered in Victoria, BC, on February 21st and 22nd, for the third Fisheries for Communities Gathering. For attendees, it was a collaborative and exciting two days (and one evening) that gave a powerful voice to the needs and aspirations of coastal communities and urged government decision-makers to stop ignoring the devasting impact of current fisheries licensing policies.
Interest in the Fisheries for Communities movement has grown substantially over the years. Many people with expertise on the issues and potential solutions for West Coast fisheries were eager to share their knowledge and ideas at the Gathering. The panel presentations informed and inspired highly productive roundtable discussions where participants identified current challenges and envisioned a better future. Panel members and keynote speakers shared their research findings and lived experiences, confirming the critical need for change. First Nation leaders, Members of Parliament, and Members of the BC Legislature also affirmed this need for change and gave their commitment to push forward with much-needed reforms. Most importantly, fish harvesters from across BC led the call for action on a made-in-BC owner-operator policy and emphasized that the time for change is now — before it’s too late.
“I would like to continue being a commercial fisherman, and owner-operator is the only way that I see our younger generation having any opportunity.” – Kim Olsen