Last week I caught a 5:50 am flight from Winnipeg to Vancouver to ensure I was back on time to attend an all-day meeting with fishing, environmental, boating, shipping, and other marine related experts from across BC to offer feedback and recommendations on a new Coastal Marine Strategy the province and First Nations are in the process of developing.
Following on the heels of a recently released ‘intentions paper’ that outlined six key themes for the impending strategy (e.g. A Healthy & Productive Coast; A Sustainable & Thriving Ocean Economy; Community Well-being; Holistic Learning & Knowledge Sharing; Trusting, Respectful Relationships; and Resilience to Climate Change), the session (led by staff from the Ministry of Water, Land & Resource Stewardship) was set up as a workshop to ensure that each of the attendees contributed feedback and insights to move the strategy forward.
In all honesty, I have never seen a more engaged group. The ideas on how to resolve issues, address gaps, and maximize opportunities took up pages of giant flip charts spread throughout the downtown Vancouver meeting venue.
While some of what was discussed and put forward was beyond my comprehension or sphere of influence, there were many suggestions that I understood and even contributed that pertained to the tourism industry. For example:
- Promote opportunities for citizen science using knowledge keepers such tourism operators
- Engage the scuba community as local stewards and monitors
- Utilize tourism infrastructure in clean up initiatives
- Establish a network of Indigenous environmental monitors along the coast
- Provide more funding support for Boating BC and other organizations to remove derelict vessels
- Restore habitat for wild salmon
- Encourage more people to visit the coast to gain a better understanding of the coast
- Tap into whale watchers data on presence of cetaceans
- Review economic benefits of non-extractive uses like tourism
- Encourage tourist accommodation in coastal communities rather than remote lodges
- Create/improve infrastructure for beach/marine access for visitors via minimally invasive locations
The aforementioned points are less than 2% of what was captured in the two-day session. The question now is, how does government take pages of good ideas, plus suggestions provided by various groups and distill it into a strategy with clear actions and targets that address the needs of the many stakeholders who share a vested interest in BC’s valuable coastal marine environment? Frankly, it won’t be easy.
As I mentioned last month in this space, TIABC is working with several of our members to help inform the strategy with a submission that encompasses marine tourism interests including fishing, boating, cruising, marinas, resorts, and other sub-sectors of the visitor economy.
Suffice it to say, the coastal marine strategy file is so massive and important, it’s almost impossible to focus on only a few areas of concern or opportunity. At the same time, we’re confident that government will pay close attention to our sector’s recommendations in view of the excellent engagement process they’ve undertaken so far to help solicit individual and collective input.
Given I arose at 2 am (Pacific Time) to fly home for the workshop, I anticipated falling asleep right after lunch. Thankfully the session was so interesting it was nearly impossible to nod off. That said, I won’t be booking early flights home like the one last week from Winnipeg anymore if I can help it. My falling asleep at the dinner table was not well received.