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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Lessons Learned from Pitching Ocean Conservation Solutions

Will Soltau is Sustainable Fisheries and Salmon Farming Campaign Manager for Living Oceans Society.

'Healthy Oceans, Healthy Communities'. That’s our tag line. Living Oceans Society uses it in our logo and in all our correspondence. Our vision has been that Canada's oceans are sustainably managed and thriving with abundance that supports coastal communities. Some of our work focuses on policy change. Other work we do is with those who are actually out on the ocean. We are not afraid to engage with government and industry to pitch solutions we think are based on sound science and we continuously evaluate the results of our engagement with an eye towards being more effective in the future.

Photo: Google Images

Two efforts that we have been involved in recently had very different outcomes. The first resulted in a precedent setting measures, developed between conservation groups and the B.C. groundfish trawl industry and aimed at protecting deep sea coral and sponge habitat while improving the fishery. The details are in the link above but I will say here that it took three years of collaboration to achieve those shared objectives.

The second effort was also a unique relationship – this time with the largest salmon farming company in British Columbia. It resulted in some positive conservation gains for wild salmon in one area of B.C. but fell short of our long term goal in the end. All the while this dialogue was going on we were being compared to war-time collaborators and accused of dealing with the devil on the one hand. Then, on the other hand, when we decided the effort was ultimately futile we were compared to smelling like spoiled children. I'm not sure what that smell actually is. I'm pretty sure the comment wasn't meant to compare us to roses.

Both efforts were attempts to solve marine conservation issues stemming from industrial activities. Both meant sitting down with the industries we identified as responsible for the problems. Each time we entered with eyes wide open knowing that we weren't going to get everything we wanted. But we also knew that talking through our respective positions was the only way to get past mutual mistrust and see if we did indeed share those objectives that could lead to a mutually acceptable solution.

They are now both finished but there are other oceans issues we're still engaged in solving and there will undoubtedly be more in the future. So we will continue to pitch our solutions. We will take away lessons from these two negotiations which can help us down the road. One thing is that each effort we engage in is unique. There has to be an incentive to change. For example, the groundfish trawlers wanted to improve their sustainability rating in order to increase their market share. Another thing we learned is that there must be a desire on the part of all parties involved to really want improved marine conservation in a way that benefits others. There can be no win-win without that commitment.

Satchel Paige – the famous fast ball pitcher and Baseball Hall of Famer pictured above summed it up pretty well. “You win a few, you lose a few. Some get rained out. But you got to dress for all of them.” That, my friends, is the LOS way and with your support, we will continue to play the game.

This week is Oceans Week! Be a SeaHugger! Show your love for the oceans simply by supporting Living Oceans Society's work – Donate today!