“I think really that fishermen were the first organized opposition to environmental degradation in British Columbia,” says Joy Thorkelson, Northern Representative and former president of the UFAWU (United Fishermen and Allied Workers Union).
In this exclusive interview with West Coast Now, Thorkelson sat down with us in her Prince Rupert office to talk about the overlooked environmental history of the fishing industry.
“TBuck Suzuki Foundation is something that the union founded in response to salmon degradation,” she explains in the video. The foundation is named after renowned Japanese-Canadian environmentalist activist, organizer and fisherman Tatsuro “Buck” Suzuki.
Thorkelson is quick to challenge environmental critics and point out the shared goals of fisheries and conservationists.“Fishermen and shore workers and tendermen – when they’re tarred with that non-sustainable brush – they get fairly irritated because in fact, they were the first and continue to be to this day, protectors of the environment.”
“They’re more highly invested in the fish continuing than anybody else because they make their livelihoods from fish continuing.”
She reveals in the video that ultimately, the UFAWU are invested in long-term sustainability. “If you don’t look after your fishery, so it’s not going to be here next year, then you have a very short economic life. Protecting the environment is the only thing that can create good and healthy fish stocks and healthy fish stocks support the commercial fishery.”