It was a rapt audience at the Vancor Motel in Bay d’ Espoir for a rainy Monday night. Ninety people gathered at the local motel on Oct. 2 for a public forum hosted by Memorial’s Harris Centre in partnership with the Coast of Bays Regional Economic Development Board. Community stakeholders gathered to hear speakers talk about the future of the marine sector in an area that has faced troubles of late, particularly the closure of the fish plant in Harbour Breton.
The event was held to encourage open discussion about trends in the fishing industry, aquaculture and other marine activities and how to best sustain the industry in the area. The forum featured guest speakers, Glenn Blackwood, executive director of the Fisheries and Marine Institute of Memorial University; Elizabeth Barlow, Aquaculture Development for the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador; Don Stewart, mayor of Harbour Breton; and Max Taylor, chair of the Community Business Development Corporation for the South Coast.
The public forum was followed up on the next day by a regional workshop. Over 60 people both from the Coast of Bays region and faculty, staff and students from Memorial attended. The workshop focused on Memorial’s research, teaching and outreach relevant to the region and identified new opportunities for collaboration between the university and local stakeholders, with the potential to build linkages/partnerships. The Harris Centre will be following up with the Coast of Bays Regional Economic Development Board over the next year to move these initiatives forward.
Dr. Eddy Campbell, vice-president (academic), attended both events and gave a presentation on Memorial’s teaching and research capacity. “These events serve to keep Memorial connected to the people of the province, understanding their needs and concerns,” said Dr. Campbell. “Individuals came together from the community and demonstrated their commitment to working together to ensure the region thrives. I was impressed with the exchange of ideas.”
Dr. Rob Greenwood, director of the Harris Centre, said that about 20 potential partnering opportunities in the areas of fisheries, aquaculture, tourism and others were identified. “Talking to local people renewed my belief in the sustainability of rural areas,” said Dr. Greenwood. “There are challenges to be sure but there is such commitment on the community level. It’s inspiring.”