Celebrating our connection with the coast at Britannia Shipyards

Newest exhibit at Britannia Shipyards showcases city’s fishing heritage and ocean sustainability

Brooke Lees opens the door to the massive Seine Net Loft building at Britannia Shipyards and steps into the past.

Inside the cavernous space are artifacts from 120 years of fishing, canneries, boat building and First Nations occupation – Japanese glass floats, various nets, tools, marine engines and more. 

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There are also film and audio clips, photographs and interactive touch screens – all part of the Our Coastal Connection exhibit, which opened to the public last month and runs until May 2018.

“We have such deep roots on the water. Fishing essentially built this village,” said Lees, curator of the exhibit. “What we are doing is celebrating those ties and learning to protect the water so we can continue to enjoy it.”

Along with an homage to history, the exhibit is also firmly focused on the future, specifically the health of the world’s waterways.

“A staggering amount of plastic is finding its way into our global oceans every year – eight million metric tons, which is the equivalent in weight to 20,000 fully-loaded 747 airplanes,” Lees said. “As you can imagine, this is wreaking havoc on marine life and ocean environments.”

The majority of waste entering the ocean from Canada and the U.S. is single-use plastic litter, such as drinking bottles and shopping bags. 

The pollution is also negatively impacting fish stocks – vital to Richmond’s fishing community and the foundation of the historic fishing village of Steveston.

The current exhibit showcases the various water stewardship initiatives locally and throughout the world, and aims to educate younger generations about sustainable stewardship practices, including promoting the “circular economy,” or planned recycling.

Some items on display include swimsuits, skateboards and cycling bags made from the recycled plastic and nylon in fishing nets. Many large corporations, such as Levis and Adidas, are leading the way by manufacturing and promoting sustainable products.

Meanwhile, more than 20 local groups that work towards conservation, education, awareness and entrepreneurship are profiled within the exhibit, including Canadian Coastal Champions, Emerald Sea Protection Society, Fraser Riverkeeper, Sea Smart School, Steveston Harbour Authority, T. Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation and students from Kwantlen Polytechnic University.

The public has also shared their stories and photographs, donated objects for display and provided research as part of the exhibit.

“It was a wonderful community effort,” said Lees, who designed and installed the exhibit with a budget of just $2,000.

Coastal Connection will be open to the public daily from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and admission is free. For more information, visit Richmond.ca/Britannia, or contact Britannia@Rchmond.ca or 604-238-8050. Britannia Shipyards National Historic Site is located at 5180 Westwater Dr. 

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