Coastal dwellers collaborate on fishery plan

Japanese poet Ryunosuke Satoro said “Individually, we are one drop. Together we are an ocean.”

Tom Rutherford

Tom Rutherford

Japanese poet Ryunosuke Satoro said “Individually, we are one drop. Together we are an ocean.”

Dan Claxton agrees.

He pulled together a sea of people bent on working together to protect, promote, educate and understand our waterways in a two-day working session.

“We stand to lose everything,” he said. “I see this conference as a stepping-stone to prevent that from happening. We will be amazed to see what we can accomplish when we unite as one to tackle the immense issues surrounding our resources.”

The goal is to create innovative approaches to working relationships, expanding technical support between First Nations, agencies and government and share knowledge and resources with the ultimate goal: restore salmon populations to levels of 30 to 40 years ago.

“We all share the resource; we all share the responsibility of protecting and restoring what is left,” Claxton said. “In terms of salmon stocks, it is the eleventh hour. We have to set aside our differences and start working together.”

The Coastal Visions Conference attracted representatives from BC and Washington State First Nations, biologists, fisheries technicians and local, provincial and federal government agencies. About 150 people attended at the Tsawout Gathering Strength Community Centre. The conference included presentations showcasing the ways First Nations, various levels of government and community groups have worked together and can continue to collaborate on salmonid enhancement and habitat restoration.

“Someone has to start this and I see this as the first step down a road. This event was fantastic and it really gave people a chance to talk about things that are important to them, and important to the collective and to start thinking about ways of working together,” said Tom Rutherford of Living Rivers, which has seen success creating partnerships in marine conservation and enhancement throughout the province.

The conference, co-hosted by the Island Marine Aquatic Working Group and Tsawout First Nations, is the first gathering of its kind, Rutherford noted.

“The challenges we’re all facing in the future are huge. One of the ways we can be successful is to work together. This venue provides an opportunity for First Nations from all over the island and Georgia Basin to get together and compare experience and expertise … That’s only going to make things better,” he said. “It’s the start of something that I feel is going to have real legs, and it is going to be resulting in benefits to the resource and First Nations communities, and the broader community for years. Decades. And it started here in this building.”