Local fisherman Mike Roh fillets some fish aboard the Alpine Star. Commercial fishing sustainability will be one of many topics on the program at the Nov. 28 ‘Fish Are Food’ conference at the Maritime Heritage Centre. Photo by Katelynn Gillette

Fish Are Food: A look at seafood sustainability

Conference in Campbell River to discuss food security from a marine perspective

Fisheries are a cornerstone of the Vancouver Island coast.

Greenways Land Trust, along with other partners, including the City of Campbell River and Island Health, want to talk about sustainable seafood.

On Nov. 28 at the Maritime Heritage Centre, the partners are hosting “Fish Are Food,” part of the Food Connections 2019 conference series, aimed at “connecting seafood, community, and farming for healthy island food systems,” and there’s still room for anyone interested in aquaculture, commercial fishing, shellfish sustainability, fish processing or any other seafood issue to register.

“When we talk about food sustainability and security, at the systems level of thinking about food, the focus has often been on agriculture,” says Lynnette Hornung, food security projects coordinator for Greenways, “and there have been great benefits to taking the systems lens to agriculture, so this conference is about wanting to bring that same lens and conversation to the marine aspects of our food system.”

Coastal communities, Hornung says, are obviously heavily economically dependent on having healthy and robust marine ecosystems, and this conference will look to discuss ways to improve those ecosystems and manage them well.

“Seafood and fisheries are a really cornerstone part of coastal communities, both in terms of taking care of the environment and ecosystems we love, but also the economic and cultural sustainability,” Hornung says. “When you look at how long Campbell River has marketed itself as the Salmon Capital of the World, these conversations are especially relevant here.”

It’s also a particularly timely conversation to be having right now, Hornung says, because of the current review being undertaken by the federal government in regards to fisheries policies and management, as well as all of the dialogue surrounding fish farms. Seafood is clearly top-of-mind for a lot of people these days, Hornung says, because “people are recognizing that the way we’re managing fisheries on the West Coast is not working for anyone.”

The conference will feature a keynote speech by owner of Codfather’s Seafood in Kelowna, Jon Crofts, who will be on hand advocating on behalf of the “Slow Fish” movement. Crofts wants to make the licensing and quota system more fair and transparent, moving it away from a corporate-based system to an owner/operator-based system where independent, small-scale fishers can sell directly to market.

There will be various presenters and breakout sessions throughout the day, including some of the research happening these days at North Island College, discussions about regulatory framework surrounding fisheries, licensing, food safety and traceability, as well as the impacts of land-based agriculture on commercial fish species like salmon.

One of the sessions is also expected to be a wander over to Fisherman’s Wharf where local fish harvesters will do some show-and-tell about their vessels and the equipment they use.

And, of course, you can’t just talk about seafood without eating some.

The conference lunch break will be a catered meal of locally-sourced seafood, and there’s a post-conference dinner scheduled at Ox restaurant in Willow Point, which will also feature local delicacies. There is no extra fee to attend the post-conference dinner, but each attendee will need to pay for their own meal, as it is not included in the conference fee.

And although the formal conference closes at 5 p.m. on the 28, there are other activities planned for the following day, as well, including a tour of Walcan Processing over on Quadra Island and a tour of the Maritime Heritage Centre’s exhibits.

The registration fee for the conference is variable, so that anyone interested can attend.

General admission tickets are $80 for the day, but there is also a “reduced rate” ticket, Hornung says, “that is for people in the not-for-profit sector who have limited budgets or people on a fixed income or small business owners who are maybe struggling. We welcome people to self-select the ticket they can afford.”

There’s also a $25 ticket for student and youth.

For more information, check out the event’s Facebook page (2019 Food Connections: Fish Are Food) or contact Hornung directly at lynnette@greenwaystrust.ca

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