In this unique setting, the participation involved people from diverse walks of life in communities along the B.C. coast and Vancouver Island. Headwaters is compiling the data collected into interim and final reports, "which will carry the outcomes of the dialogue to the wider community and build on what we learned for future actions."
This article contains a sampling of inputs from an academic, a business person, a journalist, and a newspaper owner in one of the participation groups providing input. There were several tables and dozens of respondants.
The first question aired: What is it about this conversation that interests you the most? The answers began,
Campbell River artist Curtis Wilson Wei Wai Kum First Nation
"Salmon farmers need to find people to speak on the industry's behalf," and, "For too long the industry has been flying under the radar and now it's time for people to speak out in favour of the industry."
"The industry," said the academic, who spends many weeks touring communities in gathering data toward a Ph.D., "is keeping rural communities intact. It's time to think about the people who live out there and discuss the social economic benefit of salmon farmers in those communities."
Another participant, "Ministers of the government threatening farm licensees is very dangerous. It's time to get people speaking about the importance of these jobs."
"Universities, colleges, and many different companies are training people in lifelong careers that pay above average salaries and contribute extraordinary benefits to the social well-being in coastal communities," said another.
It's a matter of finding the way to building public trust when there is so much wrong information put out, "You have to continually reply with the truth point by point when they come out with these unscientific arguments."
"There should be a wider discussion about benefits. Where is the discussion about other potential benefits, like poly-culture? There was a company in Quatsino Sound doing research on the impact of net pens and some of their reports were very positive about sea life thriving in the vicinity of net pens."
"How do we get people and government to work together with salmon farmers and use political pressure for a useful purpose in representing people whose livelihoods depend on the industry?" The group at this single table had a major concern about the need to hear a message telling the truth about the impact of a $1.5 billion agriculture crop thriving on the west coast.
"The employees and business owners associated with the industry have to make honest statements in letters to the editor and through social media." Another said, "It's a matter of reputation management. It has to be done right by the big companies."
That was a small sampling of the dialogue that ensued. These events are made possible by the support of the BC Salmon Farmers Association and delivered by Headwaters Strategy Group Ltd. They say, "Whole communities and net community benefits must be considered in responsible public policy decision-making. This work is a response to that principle.
"The Community Conversations program is designed using academically sound methods to elicit and analyse data about community values. This method creates 'higher ground' understanding by approaching the conversation about salmon farming and community economic development differently – from the perspective of dialogue, shared values and common priorities."
Over 50 people registered for an intimate gathering of Nanaimo Community Conversations on Salmon Farming, Feb. 21, which ran from 8:00-9:30am. The participation was organized by Headwaters Community Conversations and the BCSFA. During the dialogue, particpants explored ideas for building sustainable long-term coastal economies, while considering how to engage the scientific community and other community voices about salmon farming's role in the B.C. economy.