Local Fishers Support Net Recycling Initiative

The Steveston Harbour net recycling initiative has been extremely successful over the last few years, and it’s great to have it be supported by local fishing families who see this responsible disposal option as a much needed program.

Jack Bowling and his family have been eager supporters of the program and we wish to thank them for their encouragement and donations to the project. Jack has provided a short write up about his family’s fishing history and his involvement in the net recycling program – see below for a great local story and a first hand reason why this initiative is so important.

Salmon fishing on the Fraser River

In 1909, 19-year old Isaac Newton “Newt” McCulloch rode the rails west from his birthplace in Nova Scotia, ending up in the booming Vancouver, BC area. He worked various jobs wherever he could find work, including in the logging camp atop the Tsawwassen peninsula. It was there that he met his future wife, Fannie, second eldest of the seven daughters of the widowed Isabella Pearce. They married in 1916 and settled in Boundary Bay at the east end of what is now 12th Avenue in Tsawwassen. 

After running a general store for a few years, Newt ended up as a cook on the seiner Seamark No. 2 working the BC coast in the 1920s into the early 1930s while Fannie minded their three young daughters. By the mid-1930s, Newt wanted to be closer to home, so he switched from seine boats to gillnetting on the Fraser River out of the nearby port of Ladner. This he did until old age caught up to him in the 1970s.

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Newt and Fannie on the Ladner wharf in front of the seiner Seamark No. 2 in 1933

But there was another spoke in the fishing wheel. In 1951, Pearl McCulloch, the youngest of Newt and Fannie’s girls, married Earl Bowling, second youngest of the six children of Jack and Flo Bowling of Ladner. Given his previous fishing boat experience, Earl fell into helping Newt out. Under Newt’s direction, he decided to build his own gillnetter and the “Queen Bee” slipped into the water of Ladner Harbour in 1968. Earl and Pearl’s four children were all involved in fishing the local waters of the Fraser River with them until they retired from fishing, selling the license in 1993.

And so we come full circle to 2017. Newt and Fannie have passed, as have Pearl and Earl. When we were cleaning up their estate, we found over thirty gillnets that Earl had saved. What to do with the nets? Salmon fishing on the Fraser River is but a shadow of its former self, so there was little opportunity to hand over the nets to a working boat.

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Pearl and Earl on the Queen Bee in 1985

After some investigation, we discovered the Net Recycling Program run by the Steveston Harbour Authority and spearheaded by Joel Baziuk, its Operations Supervisor. This is part of a global initiative to get so-called “ghost nets” out of the planet’s waters and put an end to their disastrous by-catch of numerous defenceless aquatic species.

The program’s website is here: Steveston Harbour Net Recycling Program

Joel eagerly accepted all the old nets and provided us with the background of the program. We were glad to contribute. If you have any old nets lying around, please consider contacting Joel and donating your nets.

Colin, Jack, Brad and Heather Bowling

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