Vancouver, B.C. – Forty young leaders from across Canada joined together from May 20 – 30 to take part in an immersive expedition in Haida Gwaii, an archipelago off British Columbia’s west coast, to learn from community leaders about local issues affecting the health of our ocean. Supported by Canada Service Corps and led by Ocean Wise, the 10-day expedition is part of Ocean Bridge, the first ever youth-led program in Canada bringing together young people from urban, rural, and First Nations communities to share ideas about conservation and lead service projects to improve ocean literacy and ocean health.
“The goal of Ocean Bridge is to connect youth from coast to coast to coast, providing them with the knowledge, tools and relationships to serve their communities and local waterways. For most of the youth, this was their first trip to Haida Gwaii and it’s safe to say they all left feeling both awakened and energized by what they experienced,” said James Bartram, vice-president of education and youth, Ocean Wise. “The people of Haida Gwaii have a special, enduring relationship with the ocean and the group was fortunate enough to learn about this history firsthand from Haida leaders. It was a journey that will not soon be forgotten, and will undoubtedly inspire this group of 40 ocean champions to continue their ocean conservation efforts closer to home.”
For some, the trip was their first time seeing the ocean, marine life, and meeting other ocean conscious youth from outside their own community borders. Their base was Hiellen Longhouse Village, a group of cabins in Naikoon Provincial Park and an ideal setting to experience the beauty of this remote location. From dusk until dawn, the Ocean Bridge team used their time to fully immerse themselves into the local Haida culture.
They worked with Haida Gwaii-based community leaders to learn about sustainable fishing of their seafood staples, including an introduction to the razor clam fishery where they had an opportunity to do some hands-on digging with help from Donald “Duffy” Edgards. Haida Skidegate elder, Barb Wilson, talked to the group about her research on how the reentry of sea otters has impacted the community and marine life off their coast. They also got hands-on to address the issue of marine debris, and led shoreline cleanups at North Beach and Lepas Bay.
The Ocean Bridge team also explored Haida Gwaii landmarks like the Pesuta Shipwreck and Tow Hill and had an opportunity to dive deeper into how the ocean impacts Haida culture with a day-long expedition on the water into the inner channels near Skidegate.
As the first of two Ocean Bridge extended expeditions, the visit to Haida Gwaii has made an unforgettable impression not only on the 2018 youth cohort but the people they interacted with too. Chris Ashurt, a senior park ranger with BC Parks who helped the group with the North Beach cleanup and led the intertidal monitoring at Tow Hill, noted the enthusiasm each team member brought to the activities. Their diverse perspectives, too, added great value.
“It’s important to have these young people from all over Canada coming here to look through the ecology we have here on Haida Gwaii, so we can get an appreciation of our shared environment across the country and how important these places are for our communities. It’s fitting, given that everything on the rocks here in Naikoon has an analogous ecosystem on the east coast and in the Arctic,” said Ashurst. “Experiencing parts of this trip this alongside the Ocean Bridge team has been exciting, and it’s clear this is a group of dedicated people who will effect real change.”
Later this year, the same Ocean Bridge group will travel to Vancouver, B.C. for their second extended expedition. There, they will continue their mission to gain a better understanding of the regional environment and the conservation efforts that are currently underway. Service projects will once again be a key component as well.
Ocean Bridge is a multi-year program, and in 2019, a new group of youth participants will travel to Lake Superior Marine Conservation Area and to Ottawa for their extended service expedition. Ocean Wise recognizes the generosity of the Government of Canada, which has made this program possible.
About Ocean Bridge
Ocean Bridge is an Ocean Wise education program supported by the Government of Canada under the Canada Serve Corps, that enables 40 young Canadians to participate in a year-long program to make a difference in ocean conservation. Together, the youth form a national team engaged in co-creating and delivering service projects for their home communities, with two immersive expedition aimed at addressing oceans health and ocean literacy in Canada. Ocean Bridge participants represent urban, rural, Northern and Southern Canadian geographies and Indigenous perspectives and are coming from all three territories and almost all provinces. Learn more at http://bridge.ocean.org