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New Tsawout Nation fishing boat blessed in ceremony on Saanich Peninsula

Vessel offers new way to protect waters, fish sustainably, fisheries manager says
The fishing vessel Baby Jade, named for this Tsawout Nation toddler, was officially blessed by elders Thursday at the James Island Pier. (Megan Atkins-Baker/News Staff)

A windy morning at the James Island Pier in Central Saanich was home to a historical moment for the Tsawout First Nation Thursday (April 14) as they blessed a new vessel, Baby Jade, for use by the Tsawout people.

Elder Mavis Underwood stood in front of the boat – named after Tsawout toddler Jade – and offered a prayer.

“We are full of gratitude and we are always full of hope … we bring that to our work, our lives, our family and we bring that to the community as we ask for that special protection and blessing on the water for this dear boat …”

Chrissy Chen, fisheries manager for Tsawout, called the launch of the fishing boat a great opportunity for the nation to see the waters their people have long been on. Baby Jade will aid in their efforts to protect the ocean and harvest food sustainably.

“To be on our waters, to go see where our ancestors were, to learn about when there was an abundance, is so important … it’s time for us to co-manage with the (Fisheries and Oceans Canada) and other organizations and dismantle colonial systems and practices that are polluting our waters and villages,” said Chen, calling commercial fishing an example of this.

On June 16, 2021, the elected leadership of the Tsawout First Nation enacted a marine use law with authority over Tsawout lands, waters, resources and interests.

“There is so much commercial fishing and crabbing and we want to move that out of our area so we can protect, revive and restore all of what we have here,” said Tsawout Coun. John Etzel.

Baby Jade will allow Tsawout members to have a hands-on approach to harvesting while setting an example of where the world needs to go in terms of best practices on the ocean – rooted in Indigenous leadership, Chen said.

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