Bell tolls on efforts to preserve wild salmon

Randy Bell of Alert Bay kicked off the 2014 schedule of the Speaker’s Corner series last week.

PORT McNEILL—Randy Bell of Alert Bay kicked off the 2014 schedule of the Speaker’s Corner series last week with both a cautionary tale and a plea for cooperation to preserve the environment and its bounty for future generations.

Bell spoke to a small audience at St. John Gualbert Church last Thursday night in the latest in the series of public discussions, started last year to promote the spiritual and economic well-being of the North Island’s communities.

Bell’s presentation, which included a slideshow of photos showing seine fishing by an Alert Bay crew in North Island waters, was centred on salmon and its place in First Nations culture in B.C.

But he ranged far afield, tying together environmental, socioeconomic and political factors that will steer the future for residents both locally and beyond.

“We realize the only way we can sustain anything is by working with all communities,” Bell said. “We all have a vested economic interest, but it seems everything leads to economics and the environment pays for everything.

“But there’s no return to the environment.”

Bell painted a bleak picture of the loss of salmon as both a food source and ceremonial touchstone for local First Nations bands, citing a diminished local fishing fleet and the loss of salmon stocks in formerly rich grounds like the Nimpkish River.

A solution to the shortfall remains elusive due to the multitude of causes for the decline. And, he says, those ostensibly tasked with seeking the answers are often found to be asking the wrong questions.

“Sooner or later, we’ve got to ask the question, ‘How can we keep (the resource) here?,’” he said. “Instead, it’s ‘I want this much and you want that much.’ There’s never a common bond saying, ‘How can we make sure future generations have this?’”

Descended from a lineage that includes Alaska and B.C. Native and European ancestors, Bell began life on the North Island and later moved to Victoria, where he worked at the Royal British Columbia Museum. There, he was instrumental in changing the Aboriginal exhibits from backward-looking, historical set-pieces to interactive, living exhibits reflecting a thriving culture still tied to the land and the oceans of the B.C. coast.

Since returning to the North Island several years ago, Bell has devoted himself to strengthening those cultural ties through salmon, working to train new fishermen that can provide the community with both food for elders and fish for big house ceremonies.

All the while, making education a cornerstone for future generations.

“We’re trying to educate our young people to work with everyone,” he told the audience. “It’s all our problem; it’s not a First Nations problem and it’s not a non-First Nations problem. It’s everybody’s problem, because it will impact all of us down the road.”

Bell’s presentation was followed by the documentary film Salmon Confidential, a controversial but sobering look at the work of activist Alexandra Morton’s efforts to shine the light on salmon farming and the risks it imposes on wild stocks. Filmed and narrated by Twyla Roskovich, Salmon Confidential documents Morton’s efforts to tie disease in wild salmon to factory fish farms, and relies heavily on testimony from the Cohen Commission’s exploration of the 2009 Fraser River fishery collapse and Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s apparent attempt to muzzle its own scientists on fish-borne diseases.

The next Speaker’s Corner, scheduled for Feb. 27, will feature Morton and her discussion on her research and the need to protect wild salmon stocks.

Speaker’s Corner is an ongoing series of public discussions of ideas of importance to North Island residents. Speakers are scheduled monthly from September through May.

 

Just Posted

Black Press file photo
RCMP seek suspect in Vancouver Island-wide crime spree

Crimes stretched from Deep Bay to Qualicum, Ladysmith, Chemainus and Youbou

Things are looking up for Vancouver Island as zero COVID-19 cases have been reported for the first time since October. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Island records zero new COVID-19 cases for the first time since October

For the first time since October, the province is reporting zero new… Continue reading

Black Press Media file
Port Hardy RCMP on the hunt for porta-pottie arsonist

The porta-potties were lit on fire early in the morning on June 13

Eke Me-Xi students enjoy a field trip to Malcolm Island. (Submitted photos)
Eke Me-Xi Learning Centre takes field trip to Malcolm Island

Once at Bere Point, students made themselves at home in the day-use area

Mount Waddington Regional Fall Fair logo
Mount Waddington Regional Fall Fair cancelled again due to COVID-19 restrictions

The 2022 fall fair is still scheduled to take place in Port Hardy

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

A North Vancouver man was arrested Friday and three police officers were injured after a 10-person broke out at English Bay on June 19, 2021. (Youtube/Screen grab)
Man arrested, 3 police injured during 10-person brawl at Vancouver beach

The arrest was captured on video by bystanders, many of whom heckled the officers as they struggled with the handcuffed man

Bruce Springsteen performs at the 13th annual Stand Up For Heroes benefit concert in support of the Bob Woodruff Foundation in New York on Nov. 4, 2019. (Greg Allen/Invision/AP)
Canadians who got AstraZeneca shot can now see ‘Springsteen on Broadway’

B.C. mayor David Screech who received his second AstraZeneca dose last week can now attend the show

Most Read