As a newcomer to the West Coast, (I’ve only been here 26 years) I can still remember when I was a little boy, dreaming of fishing or of being on some kind of a fishboat in BC. Can that be attributed to too much “Beachcombers” on Thursday after school? Probably. That’s a little hard to admit but who can deny that the rivalry for rogue logs wasn’t compelling for those of us growing up thousands of kilometers away in frozen cities, busy doing our math tables or shoveling the snow from the walk? The Beachcombers existed in a completely foreign, yet Canadian location, and it stirred the imagination. Jet boats skimming over the water, miles and miles of ocean and snow capped mountains all called out to a youngster from Montreal in a way Gilligan and his palm trees couldn’t.
So here I am, many decades later and I’m finally realizing the dream. I went “packing” in the very waters where Relic and Nick churned up the sea in their quest to make a living on the west coast. Packing, for those who may not know, is a way station in the form of a boat. A place for the small gillnetters, trollers & seiners to deliver their catch close to the fishing grounds. In this case the packer was a beautiful, eighty year old, wooden, seventy-five foot long, ex-rum runner and ex-seiner. The Ryuo ll, skippered by Dave Lansdowne, as pictured on the cover of this months Communal Beat, is lovingly maintained and a thing of undeniable beauty. Make no mistake however, she is as solid a vessel and as powerful a workhorse as this coast has to offer. She can hold tens of thousands of pounds of fish in her four holds and can stand up to whatever the weather wants to throw her way. She is no museum piece to be sure.
So what were they fishing for out there? Why, salmon of course! The fishing industry revolves around the salmon here in BC. Of course our fishers seek many different species but it all comes back to the salmon, as it always has. The First Nations have fished salmon here for too many generations to count and continue to the present times as commercial fishers and food fishers which sustains their people to this day. The Sockeye run at present, in the summer of 2014, is an excellent one! Swished along by the tides and following the cooler currents the salmon are heading through the inland waters on the east coast of Vancouver Island. They carry with them the hope for future generations of fish, for people and for just about every other living thing here on the coast. When I think about all the threats to the wild salmon stocks, be they sea lice from fish farms, loss of habitat or any number of the natural challenges they face in the open ocean, I am amazed and in awe at their resiliency as a species. As a food lover and eater of fish there is no replacement for wild salmon. Please don’t try to pass of any of that insipid and suspect farmed stuff on me. I don’t want it! Give me a wild salmon fillet on the BBQ any day and we will be friends for life!