The trip from Hartley Bay to Old Town is full of many beautiful sights. My purpose for the day was two fold. First: To discuss Marine Protected areas with Chris Picard, Science Director for Gitga’at Lands and Marine Resources and Second: To participate in a crab survey and assist in the process.

Our journey began from the Hartley Bay docks in the early morning. I met with Chris, Robin, and Dom and we set off onto open seas. As this was one of my first times exploring Gitga’at territory, my companions were incredibly knowledgeable about the history of our land and seas and were happy to share this info with me. We discussed Streamwalks, Enbridge’s attempts to power their way in, and the nature of indigenous species. There will most certainly be future works with our friends in the sciences and the Gitga’at Guardians.

We passed by Kishkosh, one of the other survey zones that hasn’t been as lucky in it’s crab population over recent years. Part of the reason these surveys are done is to help the Gitga’at First Nation develop management plans for our resources. Chris and I discussed the logistics of a marine protection plan crafted by the Gitga’at and supported with manpower from the Canadian government. While this type of set-up seems to be optimal, nothing precludes us from enforcing our own protection policies. In fact the policies mentioned and the actions taken all serve to establish our “strength of claim”.

We are one of the few nations with the ability to act on our claim over our territory rather than just assert it and we can use this opportunity to lead the government into the path we believe is right. Marine protected areas are particularly useful for species that don’t move over large distances. Abalone, crab, and Geoducks are examples of species in Gitga’at territory that could benefit by establishing marine protected areas. Migratory species like salmon and halibut travel over very large distances through the oceans and rivers and their sustainability needs integrated approaches to proper management, including protected areas, by numerous jurisdictions to ensure their sustainability.  

The survey itself was a fascinating experience. I was able to help pull up multiple traps and then the recording began. Chris would take the details down and  “Male, new hard shell, no injuries, nothing missing, 175” echoed out over the serene waters as Dom took the notes down in the cabin.The boat felt like something out of a spy film with all its various compartments tucked away in the ceiling, floors, chairs, and who knows where else. They use these statistics to determine if the crabs are being over-harvested among other things.

The experience was amazing and I can’t wait to spend more time protecting our waters and our claim over them

-Eric Anderson