Fishermen work with the natural environment on a daily basis and have faced the realities of a changing climate since the mid-1990s. Although salmon runs had been relatively predictable for a 100 years, the seas and the fish in them were beginning to weave a different story.
Since the 1990s, fishermen began to notice the size of fish runs and fish would vary dramatically some years. There were a number of years in the early 2000s of unusually calm winters that slowed the mixing of deep-ocean nutrients, which is crucial feed for young salmon. Weather patterns would shift far off their usual path causing warmer or colder weather. Storms became more intense and periods of calm would last much longer.
The fishing environment and expectations were changing. Having experienced these changes during my fishing seasons and having read about the effects greenhouse gases have upon our environment, I decided to look at how we could be part of the solution in our own small way.
In the fishing industry, we burn fossil fuels to run our boats and ship our catch to market, but there are ways we can reduce the size of our carbon footprint. With the help of the T Buck Suzuki Environmental Organization, we have worked on technical solutions for our fishing boat. With friends in our community of Cowichan Bay, we looked at adapting farming’s community-supported agriculture (CSA) to the fishing industry (CSF). We talked with fishermen on the east coast where CSFs are more common and to local CSAs. With a lot of support from these friends, our CSF was born.
Although the bulk of BC’s seafood gets exported, with the CSF we were able to sell more of our catch locally. This dramatically shortened the distance from catcher to consumer, and the carbon footprint at the same time. It also gave me, my family, and crew another gift that we had not expected: a chance to get to know the people who actually eat our catch. The CSF has given us a chance to help build community here in Cowichan Bay and southern Vancouver Island, which has helped build bridges between fishermen and the community. This has allowed us to explain issues around fishing and climate change. We are also able to ask for and give support to different community efforts.
Read about our carbon footprint to learn how our CSF reduces the amount of fuel we use while fishing.