Best Fishes

Off the Hook CSF fisherman Orlie Dixon and his son row to their Cape Islander at Long Island, Nova Scotia. Photo by Becky Cliche.

The ocean is a part of us all. Just as it’s carved our cliffs, beaches and craggy shorelines, the ocean has shaped who we are. Maritimers seem particularly intertwined, found pining for sea shanties, fish dinners and salt fogs when they’ve spent too long “inland”.  But for those of us who don’t spend their days bobbing in the swell of the Atlantic, it can be hard to get past our romantic notions of the seafaring life. It is difficult to grasp just what is happening beneath the shimmering waves, beyond the fog banks. Let alone the maze of regulations and policies related to our use of the ocean and its resources.

With the explosion of the local food movement on land, we’ve learned about who raised our lamb chops, dug our potatoes, and tended our chard. We’ve met small-scale farmers at local markets or at the farm gate. And these connections are now leading to important policy changes that help support family farming businesses. Meanwhile our small-scale fishermen and shellfish farmers, who often use innovative, low impact methods to sustain their livelihoods, are being quietly squeezed out of the water by large industrial fisheries.

Despite major shifts, small-scale fishing is still the anchor for many of our communities. More than ‘just a job’, these small family businesses have endured over many generations, providing a decent way of life, a significant source of local food, and a vital connection to the sea that surrounds us. But do most of us even know who our small-scale fishermen are? What IS small-scale? Where does aquaculture fit in? And what is the future of our fisheries as we re-imagine rural economies in the 21st century? As we dive into the untold tales, foggy assumptions and tricky questions that make up Maritime small-scale fisheries, we hope you’ll join the conversation.

There is so much to talk about. From a clam revolution brewing in the Fundy mud- to gorgeous red shrimp being trapped just off the coast of Canso- to solar-powered low-density oyster farms- to Atlantic Canada’s first Community Supported Fishery.  Please chime in- here, on twitter, in a coffee shop or pub, or at the end of the nearest wharf. If you have stories or thoughts to share about our intricate (and often troubled) relationship with the sea, we’d love to hear them.

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