A few weeks ago, the Vancouver Sun ran a story on the ‘sheer tenacity’ of local Port Hardy business Keltic Seafoods Ltd. because former employees of the Maple Leaf Foods processing plant took the place over after the company shut down its operations in 1999. Today, the plant supports up to 200 workers and creates even more employment for its suppliers.
This successful business is one of many local marine-based businesses that operate on the North Island. In fact, the marine-based economy of the region is quite diverse, according to a joint study by Living Oceans Society and the Regional District of Mount Waddington. The study looked at wages, benefits and employment of local residents from ocean-related businesses in the region for the year 2009. In that year, the marine economy of the North Island provided $55.2 million in wages and 1,340 jobs to local residents, either directly or indirectly. Almost 30 percent of local employment was linked to the ocean.
Of course, this kind of wealth does not generate itself. In the famous words of Gaylord Nelson, which I recently heard echoed at a community forum in Port Hardy, “the economy is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the environment.” So this diverse economy of the North Island is testament, not only to the hard work and ingenuity of local business people, but to the bountiful ocean environment. It is hardly surprising that most of the marine sector jobs require a healthy ocean. The study shows how kayaking, surfing, diving, whale watching, commercial and sports fishing—activities critical to the North Island’s economy—draw specifically on the beauty and bounty of the region.
Complimentary research conducted on the North Island last summer by a UBC Master’s student found that residents value the ocean for the food it provides, but they also measure its value in spiritual and emotional terms. Many residents felt that a healthy ocean was intrinsically valuable and they could no more assign monetary value to it than they could to their own body.
These are some of the many reasons that Living Oceans Society has been working to keep our ocean healthy. The work we and our allies in the Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform are doing with salmon farmers Marine Harvest Canada to measure the feasibility of closed containment systems could pave the way to moving the salmon farms out of the water, contribute towards a healthier ocean for all, and maintain jobs in farms and processing.
We have also been working with the Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area planning process, or PNCIMA (pin-SEA-ma), to ensure that a marine plan for this region is made with the health of the ocean foremost in mind. Without a plan to manage the ocean and its resources, the cumulative impacts of our activities may hamper the future economic potential of the area and our options will become increasingly limited.
The study by Living Oceans Society and the Regional District of Mount Waddington can be downloaded at http://www.livingoceans.org/files/PDF/marine_planning/Marine-Economy-RDMW.pdf
Living Oceans Society