Bruce in kayak.

"We specialize in small group travel, which minimizes environmental impact, increases safety standards and allows for personalized, enriching and authentic experiences."

— Bruce Smith, founder and owner, Seascape Kayak Tours Inc.

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Posts Tagged ‘Herring weirs’

Winds of changeOctober 7th, 2009

As always, the busy summer just past is a blur at this time of year. The quiet, peace and solitude have returned to the Bay.

The trees are glowing red and yellow. The cool winds from the north have started to blow across the water. Bonaparte gulls, terns and cormorants have congregated in the harbor to find protection from the open bay and to feed on abundant herring. The marine life has been extraordinary on the bay this summer, a true testament to how special this marine ecosystem is.

imgp1397KAYAKS BEACHED IN FRONT OF A HERRING WEIR, PHOTO BY SANDRA LUKEN

As a part of the community here on Deer Island, I feel it is important to connect with local folks on the working waterfront whenever there is an opportunity. While guiding, I often stop to chat with local fishermen. On one such occasion this summer, I paddled over to a fellow working the weir off Dinner Island. The paddling group was eagerly following the guide in the lead boat, so I made an executive decision to lag behind and strike up a conversation.

“Beautiful day,” says I.

“Shore is,” says he.

Weirs have been the topic of previous blog posts. We always share with our groups that these somewhat haunting structures made from poles, brush and nets are a traditional method for catching herring traced to the ancient Passamaquoddy Tribe. As I bobbed up and down in my kayak on this sunny afternoon, the fisherman shed new light on weir fishing.

“You know, we often get porpoise following fish into these weirs,” he said. I replied that I knew about this and had helped release several harbor porpoise from the Iris weir in the front of Seascape’s base.

porpoise-lift-sarah-wong-photo2

HARBOR PORPOISE BEING RELEASED FROM A WEIR, PHOTO BY SARAH WONG.

“At first this pissed me off, you know,” he continued. “Lots of extra work to get these fellas out of the nets. Then one time I grabbed one innocently by the tail and all of a sudden the porpoise went limp. This made it very easy to release the porpoise from the weir.”

Was the porpoise trusting the fisherman? I wondered.

“You know, then I made an observation,” said the fisherman. “If there were porpoise in the weir, no seals would enter the weir.” Seals will feed indiscriminately in weirs and can damage nets, unlike porpoise, who often find their own way out of the weir. “So I says to myself, ‘Self, why don’t you leave the porpoise in the weir and only help them out if they need it?’ ”

The kayak group was a distance away enjoying an interaction with a pod of porpoise. We made our farewells and I paddled over to join the group.

imgp1391SEASCAPE GUIDE FRANK POSTMA EXPLAINING THE WEIR’S FUNCTION TO A GROUP OF YOUNG PADDLERS, PHOTO BY SANDRA LUKEN.

But I continued to reflect on the conversation I’d just had with the fisherman. Through his vast experience on the water, he had learned an important lesson about coexisting with the many animals that come to the Quoddy region to compete for food. This lesson was a reminder to me that connections on the water are not just about people. If we look beneath the surface, we can see that our connections to marine life are just as vital as our connections to one another.

Seascape has a number of trips left to run this fall from our northern base, but the season is almost over. Fall is settling into the region and the winds have shifted. I will miss the Bay of Fundy as I travel to Costa Rica for the winter. However, I take comfort in knowing that I will be back to assist guests in making meaningful connections to this special place next summer.

Bruce


The ocean communityJune 13th, 2009

Yesterday it was cold and drizzly on Deer Island, but today the sun is showing its face, seabirds are calling across the Bay, and it’s beginning to look a lot more like summer. Soon, more and more visitors will arrive on the island as we gear up for the high season of July and August, when we’ll be running several trips per day.

Seascape’s tours take visitors past a series of herring weirs, a traditional method of fishing traced to the ancient Passamaquoddy Tribe that involves catching herring in a trap made from poles, brush and nets. Patterns of shadow and light on the water created by the weirs make for a beautiful paddling environment, graced by a sense of history and heritage.

BRUCE LEADS A GROUP PAST A HERRING WEIR, A SUSTAINABLE FISHING TRADITION IN THE BAY OF FUNDY.

BRUCE LEADS A GROUP PAST A HERRING WEIR, A SUSTAINABLE FISHING TRADITION IN THE BAY OF FUNDY.

Last season I was guiding a half-day sea kayaking experience around nearby Beans Island. Paddling around a point, I was expecting to land on our regular beach for a snack break. But to my amazement, I found that  a new weir had just been built, totally preventing us from pulling up on shore. 

Was I angry about someone building a weir at this site? No. Weir fishing is a highly sustainable fishery, one that falls in line with our own commitment to sustainability. The problem I had was the fact that no one bothered to pick up the phone to call and inform us that the weir was being built and that we might want to look for another beach to stop on. 

WEIRS PROVIDE PADDLERS WITH A SENSE OF PLACE WHEN THEY LEARN ABOUT THE LOCAL FISHING CULTURE.

WEIRS PROVIDE PADDLERS WITH A SENSE OF PLACE WHEN THEY LEARN ABOUT THE LOCAL FISHING CULTURE.

Educating visitors about the local fishing culture in the Quoddy Region is an essential part of Seascape’s commitment to providing opportunities for contact between visitors and coastal inhabitants as a means of involving local communities in tourism. But the values of an ecotourism kayak tour operator and a traditional fisherman are sometimes in conflict. 

Nevertheless, Seascape has a very strong philosophy of building community partnerships and connections. We try to work as closely as possible with fishermen and other stakeholders on the Bay of Fundy. As an eco-tour company, we may not agree with fishing methods utilized and the resulting environmental impacts, but we believe open dialogue is essential to the development of a baseline of common understanding. Hopefully such openness can and will lead to stakeholders working together to protect our common resource and thereby improve the heath of our coastal communities.

Open dialogue, mutual respect, understanding, awareness, acceptance. There is still more work to do… We will have to continue to try harder to bridge the gap between the fishing culture and ecotourism on the Bay. We also have to remember that we are all in this together. As Herman Melville said, “We cannot live for ourselves alone.”

Bruce

HERE THE WEIR LINES SUGGEST CALLIGRAPHY, ADDING A ZEN-LIKE BEAUTY TO THE BAY.

HERE THE LINES CREATED BY THE WEIR POLES SUGGEST CALLIGRAPHY, ADDING A ZEN-LIKE BEAUTY TO THE BAY.

ALL PHOTOS IN THIS ENTRY COURTESY OF FRANK POSTMA.