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​Fisherman and Friend’s Reunion - Camp Hope

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​Fisherman and Friend’s Reunion - Camp Hope
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Fisherman and Friend’s Reunion   Camp Hope  November 11-13, 2016

Since the 50s there have been Adventist commercial salmon and herring fishermen on our west coast. Since the 70s most have been based in Port Hardy. This came about largely due to the ‘beaching’ of the GMG floating logging camp that included homes, a school and church, that moved up and down the BC coast for many years. But times change, and as these loggers, and their offspring, put down their chain saws, they transitioned into commercial fishing.  During the later 70’s, 80’s and 90’s this tiny Adventist fleet was in a period of growth, due largely to the acquisition of boats and licenses by one First Nations man, James Walkus, a very talented and blessed fisherman, who… became an Adventist through contact with the floating loggers. 

As time went on, young men who worked on James’ boats as crew, became skippers and started to run boats too, creating a demand for more crewing positions. James was dedicated to Adventist education and he would always require his skippers to hire two students. Over the years that hiring practice was quite a blessing to many young people, getting them through college and university and off to a career.

The late 90s saw a big downturn in the west coast salmon fishery. Too many boats and too few fish. The government bought back boat licenses and soon unlicensed boats and gear were selling at bargain prices. This downturn hit the Adventist fleet too, which at its peak was about 40 boats mostly seine, but also gillnetters and trollers.

The tight knit, burgeoning Adventist community in Port Hardy soon started shrinking along as the fish runs decreased.  Their unique working lifestyle out on the ocean, covering the coast from Alaska to Washington, was slipping away like the falling tide. The summer fishing student crowd slowly disappeared and soon too, families started selling their homes and moving to other areas for work, education and re-training. 

It was about 10 year after the majority of the Adventist fishing fleet slipped their mooring and went into the history books that many ex-fishermen, ex-fisher students and Port Hardy friends got together at Camp Hope for a reunion in October of 2010. Since such a good re-connecting time was had by all, and some were unable to make it, another was held in October 2013. Then three years later, a third was held on November 11-13.

About 55 people showed up at Camp Hope for the Fishermen and Friend’s Reunion 2016. There were joyful reunions; hugs, tears, handshakes and many stories told of remembrances of another time, another life, making a living on the ocean. Stories of God’s leading and providence warmed many hearts. Ex-fisher Herb Larsen Jr spoke Friday evening, and Port Hardy Pastor Bert and wife Donna Williams (78-80), from Nebraska, spoke for church service. James Walkus at 78 (still fishing), and Andy Waterman in his 80s were our senior ‘skippers’ in attendance. The 200+ fishermen and women who spent time on the boats are now scattered all over North America, in every type of occupation. Being able to fish was a real blessing in helping so many to make their way through high school, college, university and beyond.

Bill Gerber, coordinator
Fisherman’s Reunion