“Unless we are willing to encourage our children to reconnect with and appreciate the natural world, we can’t expect them to help protect and care for it.” - David Suzuki
It’s no secret that the world today is feeling enormous pressure facing challenges caused by the stress of human activity on natural resources. The state of Canada’s fisheries are a prime example of these challenges as we deal with declining fish populations, expanding markets, water pollution, urban development, and improper farming practices. The rise of different groups that advocate on the behalf of fishing as a resource are critical in sustaining the traditional practice and in feeding our communities for generations to come.
Though we see international and local governments setting the framework for negotiation around sustaining these resources, it’s often up to local populations to make sure the treaties and agendas are respected and enforced. The TBuck Suzuki Environmental Foundation, devoted to the preservation of fish habitat, is one of those important groups in British Columbia. In an effort to educate and support the next generation of BC’s fishermen, TBuck Suzuki hosted its first BC Young Fishermen’s Association this year full of talks on business development, leadership, fisheries science and policy skills.
SeafoodX was lucky to be invited to listen, observe and present at one of these workshops with a group of about 50 fishermen (plus one infant) that had gathered at Victoria’s Comfort Inn on a cloudy Tuesday morning. The participants came from all over the West Coast, including Vancouver Island, Haida Gwaii, the Northern Coast of BC and Alaska.
Jim McIsaac, executive director of Tbuck Suzuki, with over 20 years of commercial fishing experience, began the day’s talk with a welcome introduction. Jim pointed out that though everyone gathered for the workshop were from different areas, use different methods of fishing, and catch different species, they all shared common reasons for attending the workshop. They hope to network, share experience, identify and discuss challenges presented by low catch limits, hostile environments, lack of accountability, and more. They also shared the common concerns of financing their fishing operations and accessing licences and quota.
What stood out immediately is that though the gathering was officially entitled the “Young” Fishermen’s gathering, the range of experience around the room went from 10 to 30+ years. Some attendees claim that despite their 20+ years experience, they still consider themselves very young on the boat. The fishing industry is unique in its way of recognizing and respecting its senior members, explain why it is both passed down through generations and held on to so tightly despite the current challenges facing it today.
“Food is an important resource for everyone. It doesn't go out of style” - Jim McIsaac
Keynote speaker of the morning, Shaun Strobel, gave an engaging speech which included a summary of his journey as a fisherman, undoubtedly relatable to many in the crowd. Shaun identified factors that fishermen of the future will need to address, and reminded us that the fishhook and the sail pre-date the plough.
So how is technology accepted in this industry where the average age of gillnetters is above 60? When asked, Shaun shared that he feels some technological innovation has been a positive in the industry, helping keep people out on the water and their business’ afloat. For example, GPS technology can greatly help a fisherman with poor eyesight.
Our founder James DeGreef had the pleasure of introducing SeafoodX to the attendees. He shared the company’s vision of creating the first online marketplace for BC commercial fishing that meets the demands of real fishermen. James spoke about how SeafoodX is focusing on creating a transparent and efficient market for temporary quota licences in British Columbia and, in doing so, connecting fish companies, independent fishers and native bands. Besides practical concerns, perhaps what was most relevant during the presentation were the espoused visions and values of: integrity in everything, technological innovation, and equity and inclusion.
It was a pleasure and educating experience to hear from these experts at the BC Young Fisherman’s Association. Having the opportunity to present to such an audience is important to SeafoodX, being the future of fishing and the types of individuals SeafoodX is designed to support. We hope that SeafoodX will prove to be another helpful and inclusionary piece of technology that supports the continuation of the fishing industry in the decades and generations to come.