A Personal Story to Inspire Change

A Personal Story to Inspire Change

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”
Leo Tolstoy

While I have only been with the Georgia Strait Alliance (GSA) for a short time, I have been inspired by what individual people can do and how like minded people can change the way we think and live. At a recent staff meeting, I was truly enlightened by GSA’s mission “to protect and restore the marine environment and promote the sustainability of Georgia Strait, its adjoining waters and communities.” Those who work and volunteer for GSA do so because they believe that they can positively change the way people live, and protect the marine environment in our community. As a summer student, I have personally experienced how advocacy, education, and outreach are useful tools for connecting people with issues around the Georgia Strait and the health of the marine environment.

Having the role of a community outreach coordinator, I am given the opportunity to attend events and festivals in different communities along the Georgia Strait. At these events, I discuss people’s concerns, ideas and things they love about the Georgia Strait, in an effort to connect people and further develop our community map. At these events, I meet people who have been directly impacted by issues that GSA is deeply connected to and concerned with, for example open-net salmon aquaculture.

The negative impacts of open-net salmon farming have been recognizably linked to a variety of serious environmental issues, such as the limited growth and development of wild salmon. Additionally, open-net salmon farming is thought to have an impact on coastal tourism, and the ability of individuals to maintain recreational fishing as a viable business. Recently, I met a person who shared a truly wearisome story about the loss of his business as a recreational fishing guide.

This gentleman, who we will call Garry, expressed his early success as fishing guide and his love of taking people from around the world out on his boat to fish for wild salmon. Garry shared how he and his family built and ran a fishing lodge on one of the small islands north of Nanaimo, and throughout the summer months took tourists to catch wild, native salmon. Currently, however Garry is no longer able to keep his lodge going or continue to work as a recreational fishing guide. Garry attributes the decrease of the recreational fishing industry to the increase in open-net salmon farms and notes that as the number of farms has increased in the Georgia Strait, the number of wild, mature and lice free salmon have become almost impossible to find.

Garry’s story is truly disheartening, but unfortunately is not the only one I have heard. For this reason I want others to look at the big picture regarding open-net salmon farming. Although many see it as a profitable and viable business that supports local economies- ask these two simple questions: What about local businesses that are being displaced by open-net salmon farming and how can open-net salmon farming stay sustainable ? Garry’s story serves as a message for others to protect the marine environment, but also that preserving and maintaining the health of the marine ecosystem is essential in sustaining the livelihoods of various people living along the Georgia Strait.

I hope others will continue to stop and think about where the salmon they are consuming comes from, and make a personal effort to support the campaign for the immediate transition of all open-net salmon farms to a closed-containment system. For further information and to voice your concerns, please add to our community map or visit our website and learn what you can do. Also, to further expand our engagement with those who care and live along the Georgia Strait, please follow us on Twitter and Facebook to add and share your ideas, comments and concerns.

Kelly Sims

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