The first Gaaysiigang forum in 2009. (Kii’iljuus Barb Wilson Photo)

Second Haida Gwaii oceans forum set to make waves

Keynotes will feature Tofino Mayor Josie Osborne, Maori tourism leader Hone Mihaka

Haida Nation is hosting a second oceans forum along with Parks Canada, the provincial government and the Marine Plan Partnership for the North Pacific Coast this week in Skidegate.

The Gaaysiigang Sding/Sdang Oceans Forum II will take place March 1 and 2 at the Haida Heritage Centre.

Community leaders from Haida Gwaii, Tofino and New Zealand will gather over the day-and-a-half forum to “make waves” about the future of the waters surrounding Haida Gwaii.

READ MORE: Gwaii Haanas looks to protect more marine areas

Coastal-dwelling keynote speakers at the event will include Maori tourism leader Hone Mihaka on the Friday and Mayor of Tofino Josie Osborne on the Saturday.

Several themes, such as governance, culture and identity, and the environment will be discussed. Osborne told the Observer she will focus on the changing economy, from resource-dependence to ecotourism-dependence.

“About 30 years ago Tofino made a very explicit decision to focus on ecotourism,” Osborne said. “That was a very conscientious decision that was made here, to focus on the ecotourism sector as a way to not log.”

However, Osborne said there were changes they didn’t anticipate and she plans to advise forum participants to be cognizant from the beginning that when they market Haida Gwaii as an ecotourism destination, they are marketing to their future residents.

“I’m really going to weave in the theme of how to maintain a community’s identify and values through that process of economic change,” she said. “When you put an invitation out to the world to come and visit you … you need to be very mindful of what your community identity is and what the values are of the people who live there now, so that’s what you’re expressing.

“You never want to lose sight of who you are when you’re marketing your destination because transformation can happen by the different types of people who come.”

READ MORE: Divided worldviews at play in debate over ocean fertilization

Aside from the keynotes, the forum will include workshop sessions on actions taken to protect Haida Gwaii and its surrounding waters over the past 10 years, since the first Gaaysiigang oceans forum in 2009.

Participants will discuss challenges with issues such as ocean acidification, dead zones, fisheries collapse, pollution and aquaculture, celebrate achievements, and write the next chapter of Haida Gwaii’s oceans story.

There will also be an art show on the Friday night, food and door prizes.

READ MORE: Haida Gwaii oceans project tracks alien invaders

Haida Gwaii residents, representatives from relevant local and regional organizations, and staff from relevant governments and government agencies are invited to register for the event.

Gas vouchers and childcare will be available for forum participants.



karissa.gall@blackpress.ca

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