Fed up with heated arguments over fish management, a local filmmaker is trying to refocus the conversation about preserving salmon populations through a documentary on the fish’s significance in northwest B.C.
Quinn Barabash moved with his family to Terrace seven years ago because of the local access to wild salmon, describing fishing as his avenue to explore and learn more about the species.
He says he’s been fishing all his life and watched as declining salmon stock populations created a ripple effect in the region, stirring up heated discussions between stakeholders over who’s to blame.
“Unfortunately right now we’re at a time where all the user groups have contributed to some serious hardship for these fish — the thing we love, the thing that shapes our life and lights up our soul. We put too much pressure on these fish, and the fish are struggling,” Quinn says.
“But instead of coming together and holding hands over the issue and trying to sit at the same table and problem solve collectively, there’s a lot of finger-wagging and pointing. It’s not really helpful — if anything, it’s more detrimental to the cause. In all of this arguing and bickering, no one is really doing anything in the best interest of the fish, which to me is a huge tragedy.”
The documentary titled ‘Skeena Salmon Past, Present and Future’ would focus on the human side of salmon in the Skeena River with the goal of gaining a better understanding of the future of salmon fishing in northwest B.C.
The film will first explain the history of salmon fishing in the area by following Indigenous communities along the river, and exploring the now-defunct cannery towns like Port Essington. It will then tackle the evolution of traditional fishing practices and economies into the subsequent commercialization of salmon that has resulted in present-day fishing closures and dismal retention rates.
“Storytelling is an incredible way to do that,” Quinn says. He is currently finishing up a masters degree in governance and entrepreneurship in Northern and Indigenous areas, and says he believes visual media can be a powerful tool when explaining complex issues.
“Through sharing stories, people are able to have empathy for another world view. My hope is that all users will be able to look at the different stories and see themselves in that, and realize we are more similar than we are different. We all want the same thing, to protect these incredible fish.”
Last week Quinn’s documentary was awarded $50,000 from Telus STORYHIVE, a community funding program for content creators in British Columbia and Alberta. His project was one of 30 selected from 382 applications this year. In addition, Creative BC will be providing top-up funding for the film, according to a press release.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity to do what I love,” he says. “Having financial support for a project that you’re passionate about is always an exciting opportunity.”
Rosalind Barabash, Quinn’s wife, will be working with him to spearhead the research and writing for the documentary. Several local filmmakers, graphic design artists, photographers and storytellers are also involved with talks for production, including Storm Carroll, Derek Flynn, and Brandon Broderick.
“There’s a lot of talented individuals in the realm of storytelling, a lot of incredibly talented people who could really contribute to a nice story in their own way, whether it’s writing, research, filming photography… that capacity exists in the North.”
Quinn hopes to start filming next month before the end of the fishing season, with the goal of wrapping up post-production by June 2020.
Preserving salmon populations has become all the more important to Quinn since becoming a father of three kids, knowing that one day, they could experience the same wonder and awe for the fish as he did when he cast his first reel.
“Fishing has brought me to some of the most beautiful places on Earth, where I’ve created some of the best memories of my life,” he says. “You always want [fishing] to be around so your kids, or anyone belonging to the next generation, can enjoy it as this really enriching experience.”