June 8 is World Oceans Day. As I saw post after post today, I kept thinking that I should post something as well; after all, the ocean is kind of a big deal around here.
But in reading the posts, I struggled with what to say because I realized my perspective on the ocean is maybe a bit different than many people’s. Not that I don’t think it’s amazing, because it is, but maybe because I see the ocean daily it’s a bit more personal for me. The ocean isn’t an abstract concept you see on vacation. It’s a fact of daily life. Our weather is tempered by the Bay (not that you could tell this winter). Our basic transportation is dependent on it. Events are planned based on tides and fishing. The ocean is the prevalent and dominant factor of island life.
I think it’s the abundance of the Bay of Fundy that sometimes makes it challenging to relate to posts about barren oceans. While there have certainly been changes in the ocean in recent years, we are fortunate to still have a robust and prosperous fishery. Our little corner of the world was born of small boat fisheries captained by their owners and they have been the backbone of rural coastal communities in Atlantic Canada. These enterprises were generally licensed for multiple species, allowing fishermen to fish for what species was abundant in any given year. It worked remarkably well: without myriads of scientific research to back up quotas or management decisions, fishermen simply fished for what was available. As a stock went through a down cycle, a different fishery was pursued. (Not all species can be in high abundance at the same time). Fishermen were driven to protect the ocean by one common denominator: it was a good way of life and they wanted it to be available for their children.
As time went on, government policy subtly shifted year after year. Fish quotas are easier to manage than independent fishermen; corporate consolidation followed in fishery after fishery. If you don’t live here or work here your incentive to make sure it still will be here is greatly reduced. Small boat fisheries are clinging to the stocks, licenses, and management styles they have left. It still is a good way of life and I hope it will be available for generations to come.
Sometimes bigger isn’t always better.
But for now, I continue to enjoy the ocean lapping at our shores. I will marvel at the beautiful sunrises over the water. I will stop and watch through the kitchen window as ducks and gulls dive for their meals. I will enjoy the wonder of the kids as they show their discoveries of crabs and clams on the beach.
Happy Oceans Day.
“How inappropriate to call this planet Earth when it is quite clearly ocean.” — Arthur C. Clarke