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Atlantic Policy Congress Fisheries Conference: Reflections from Two Budding Marine Managers

One month into the new year, the two of us took a break from courses, conference planning, and work to attend our first conference of the new year in Membertou, NS.


Panel on the Marshall Decision. L to R: Melissa Nevin, Dr. L. Jane McMillan, Dr. Fred Matallic, Clark Dedam, Karen Summerville and Angie Gillis. Photo Credit: Kali Hines, January 2024.


Held January 23 - 25, 2024, the APC Fisheries Conference & Awards Ceremony was held at the Membertou Trade & Convention Centre. The three-day event was presented by the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs Secretariat (APC) and brought together fisheries leaders and managers from across Atlantic Canada, Gaspé and Maine.

 

This year’s APC conference was especially important. This year, it celebrated 25 years since The Marshall Decision and featured conversations around the impacts it has made on First Nations fisheries, and projections for the future. Notably, this year also marked the first time the conference was held in community.


The conference was rich in discussion, featuring many respected speakers in community and industry. Emceed by the hilarious Trevor Gould, the weekend welcomed the likes of Chief Terry Paul (Opening remarks), Dr. Albert Marshall (speaking on rights and responsibilities), a panel discussion on the Marshall Decision (Melissa Nevin, Dr. L. Jane McMillan, Dr. Fred Metallic, Clark Dedam, Angie Gillis and Karen Summerville), and of course, keynote speaker Dan Christmas. APC provided updates, research was presented, and various industry members were present. In the evening, entertainment was provided by Kate Jadis (Traditional Dancer, Eskasoni), Michael R. Denny (Music & Dance),  Sons of Membertou (Musical Group) and The Relatives (Musical Group).

 

With a conference as rich and full as this was, with the amount of knowledge sharing that took place, putting all your thoughts into only a few short words is extremely difficult. And yet, here we are, attempting to do just that.


Reflecting With Tamara Joseph

As someone passionate about fisheries and aquatic ecosystems, the opportunity to attend the 2024 APC Fisheries Conference and Awards felt like a journey into the heart of the ocean's wisdom. Hosted by the Assembly of First Nations, Fisheries Council (APC), this event offered the latest developments, challenges, and recognitions within the world of Indigenous fisheries.


Photograph of Dr. L. Jane McMillan's book 'Truth and Conviction', that was handed out at the conference. Photo Credits: Kali Hines, January 2024


The conference was more than just an event; it was a collaboration of minds committed to the sustainable stewardship of our aquatic resources. The participants, ranging from Indigenous leaders to scientists and industry experts, created diverse perspectives.


The sessions were filled with knowledge and experience, showcasing the latest innovations and practices shaping the future of fisheries. From discussions on climate change impacts, and embracing Indigenous wisdom in fisheries management, to the key speakers and presenters, what struck me most was that the conference wasn't just about discussing fisheries; it was about acknowledging the relationship between our communities, the aquatic ecosystems and marine management. The elders and knowledge keepers reflected our culture, reminding us that sustainable fisheries are not just a goal, but a responsibility embedded in our DNA.

 

The awards ceremony was a celebration of resilience, a recognition of those who have worked to protect our waters. Witnessing Indigenous leaders and community members being honoured for their contributions was a powerful affirmation of the strength within our communities. It was a moment of collective pride and a reminder that our ancestral teachings are not only alive but thriving.

 

One of the most profound aspects was the sense of unity within the circle. Indigenous and non-Indigenous attendees alike were united by a common goal — to protect and preserve our fisheries for future generations. As I reflect on my time at the 2024 APC Fisheries Conference and Awards, I am filled with a sense of responsibility and hope. The conference has provided me with a deeper understanding of the challenges we face and the solutions within our grasp.


Reflecting With Kali Hines

I was excited and nervous when I was offered the opportunity to attend the 25th APC Fisheries Conference & Awards Ceremony. As a master’s student, I wasn’t sure how I would fit in among the experienced and knowledgeable stakeholders and rightsholders who were to be in attendance. Unlike most of the attendees, I do not have direct experience working in the marine industry, I am not from one of the communities attending, and I do not yet consider myself an academic researcher.


Audience ready to start the day of the first day at the 2024 APC Fisheries Conference & Awards Show. Photo credit: Kali Hines, January 2024.


Although I was initially nervous about attending the conference, I was looking forward to it. With my past academic and work experience, I am well-versed in considering environmental, social, and economic factors when it comes to policy and management discussions. While I wasn’t sure how this knowledge would contribute to the conference proceedings, I looked forward to simply listening to the insights and updates presented to me and connecting with others who would be attending.


Despite knowing the variety of expected attendees and presenters expected for the conference, the actual turnout exceeded my expectations. Attendees and presenters of all ages and backgrounds from across Atlantic Canada got together, bringing with them a diverse range of industry expertise, governmental officials, scientific knowledge, traditional wisdom, and lived experiences. Even groups that may have disagreed on fishery management problems or solutions were friendly towards each other, engaging in casual conversation during the conference proceedings. This diversity helped me feel less nervous about what I lacked in knowledge or experience, and more comfortable with what I did know.

 

The diversity of presenters at the conference was reflected in their presentations. Researchers, professionals, and community members shared their work, ideas, and efforts to improve fisheries management and the marine sector. Although some presentations overlapped in theme, the approaches varied, with some focusing on the economic, environmental, or social factors related to fisheries management. This variety of approaches helped to provide a bigger picture of fisheries management in Nova Scotia and remind those present that most of us have similar goals in mind. Each perspective, no matter how distinct from the previous one, represented different groups’ uses, interactions, wants or needs in the management of Nova Scotia’s fisheries and waters.


I was excited to sit and hear discussions about how environmental, social, and economic factors are interconnected within current and future fisheries management decisions. All three factors are closely related and can have an impact on the benefits or challenges the others face. It gave me hope to experience a space designed for rightsholders and stakeholders to join in sharing their knowledge and experiences to improve our fisheries and ocean use for present and future generations.


The Relatives performing after a long day of conference proceedings for all those in attendance. Photo credit: Kali Hines, January 2024


While Nova Scotia still needs to do a lot of work in integrating different knowledge sets into fisheries management policies and proposals, this conference provided me with a small glimmer of hope that change is on the horizon. I saw it as evidence that we are finally starting to recognize the importance of including different perspectives, groups, and considerations in larger fishery discussions, policies, and plans. This is crucial in shaping future research, policies, and decisions that represent and include as many groups as possible, ultimately paving the way for a more sustainable and equitable future for our oceans and communities alike. 

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