Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Right Time For Salmon

This is a column I had published in the October 25, 2011 edition of the Kings County Record.  On the day described I was at my full time job as Project Manager for the Kennebecasis Watershed Restoration Committee and I can't tell you how excited I was.  After the fact I was a bit embarassed as I thought how I must have looked to my coleague, Tanya Dykens.  Tanya actually provided me with the picture below and I thought it was kind of funny and would add a laugh to the blog.  This is made more likely by the fact that I couldn't get a picture of the two adult salmon swimming in the pool.
I was trying to catch an Atlantic Salmon here.  I obviously needed to practice my technique a bit more as I was unsuccessful.  At the time I blamed the camera...LOL

Fall is an impressive time of year with so much to witness and observe.  Obviously there is the changing of the leaves from the rich greens to the burning oranges and reds.  Look harder and you can see the geese flying overhead.  The tell tale "V" formation giving them away instantly and as they get closer the loud honking and black and white colors solidify your initial guess that they are indeed geese.  Sometimes when you're looking the other way, Mother Nature offers you up a true gift.  Recently, that is what happened to me.

My job requires that I spend a good quantity of time outdoors.  A majority of that time I am in chest waders wandering up and down rivers and sometimes into a local coffee shop.  Earlier in the summer I had placed a number of devices in area streams to get water temperature data.  The other day I went to retrieve them with a colleague from Agriculture Agri-Food Canada and after I collected one near a nice gravel riffle I thought I would wade downstream to check for Atlantic salmon redds.

I treaded carefully downstream on the gravel and boulder river bottom which was slippery.  The fall colors reflecting off the sun dappled water made the rural setting look like a tourism ad.  I struggled to see the bottom of the river which would have been impossible without my polarized sunglasses.  As I scan the river bottom looking for the subtle difference a Salmon leaves when it leaves it's approximately 25cm redd, my coworker starts to holler at me from a deep pool back upstream.  She is motioning emphatically with her arms, moving them in and out and then pointing into the pool.  I thought "No way?"

I stumbled as quickly as I could back up the bank opposite my coworker and looked into the pool.  She stated that she just saw two large fish but was uncertain as to what they were.  I couldn't see anything even with my sunglasses on.  I slowly crossed the river to the higher bank for a better look.  Just as it looked like they had been spooked off, suddenly they appeared again in the pool.  Two large, long, and healthy looking Atlantic salmon were swimming in a river I have worked to improve in hopes that trout and salmon numbers would improve.

Many times I have walked this same river when the conditions were right looking for Atlantic salmon and never have I seen one.  I felt like I had finally attained a clear identifiable picture of Bigfoot.  I was excited and felt so rewarded at that moment.  We tried to photograph the prize fish a number of ways but to no avail.  As I looked around and took in the whole scene, I once again came to appreciate how truly blessed we are to live in this country.  I gained a whole new appreciation of the fall season and what it has to offer.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Shale Gas Exploration in My Opinion??

I have placed two question marks in the title of this blog but in reality I have many questions in regards to the topic of shale gas exploration and development.  Many of the questions I have sought out answers for from industry.  Even the best salesman from the industry left me feeling uneasy and still uncertain about the validity of their claims of how safe the process is.  The local environment, specifically air and water quality, but also quality of life, health care, and tourism is much to valuable to our long term sustainability to risk for a short term gain.  With so many questions around the shale gas industry, the risk is easily understood.

So why I have waited so long to make my opinion on this topic heard?  This is one question I know the answer too.  I have been trying to be diplomatic and work quietly at making changes when I could.  I felt that government would work diligently towards making smart and safe decisions based on the public's best interest and the best thing I could do was aid in that effort when afforded the opportunity.  Now I hear that Windsor Energy has taken actions of disregard and disrespect against, not one, but two municipalities, in which I often work with.  I can no longer sit quietly.

I have heard that the Provincial government is working towards creating a "Gas Action Plan."  I think with the latest actions by Windsor the government now has to step up and halt any further gas development until such time that the "Action Plan" is completed and loop holes such as the one being exploited by Windsor are closed.  Strong regulations that are easily and economically enforceable by the Province, upon wealthy gas companies, should be in place, not to simply protect people now but many years from now.

As much as I want to blame the gas companies, they are not all to blame on these issues.  I think we need to hold the government accountable as well.  The people of NB have been boisterous on this issue and yet the government seems a bit slow in reacting and when they do react, I am not convinced it is in the best interest of the Province.

I don't claim to be informed about all the issues on this topic but I have an opinion.  Now you know my thoughts, take them for what they're worth...which likely isn't as much as gas.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

New National Park for the Maritime Region

The east coast of Canada has likely some of the best shoreline scenery and coastal features of this great country of ours so it was no surprise to me to hear that Sable Island was granted National Park status.  You can check out a more official document here.  I feel that any effort to conserve or preserve our wilderness areas, especially unique and valuable ones is a great thing but I wonder if the National Park designation in this instance is sufficient enough.  Nowadays a National Park is considered a tourism destination and in some instances, and I feel Sable Island may be one, the area designated is not large enough or stable enough to even withstand minimal tourism impacts.  Sable Island is a fragile sand dune ecosystem with a sustainable wild horse herd.  Add 100 seasonal travelers to the mix and the sands and associated vegetation may start to shift.  I am hoping the government investigated all these issues and I will give them the benefit of doubt so I will say cheers Ottawa for protecting the future of this great jewel in the middle of the Atlantic.  Some will take issue with the proximity of the off-shore drill rigs and the potential for impact they have but for now, lets stand up and celebrate the establishment of another Park in our Country.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Not Guilty

A while back I wrote about how I was given a ticket for crossing the railroad tracks in my home town.  Well today I went to court to fight the ticket.  I have never had to face a judge before and I have to admit it was a bit unsettling.  My heart thumped a bit faster as I approached the court house and my feet felt heavy as I climbed the stairs.  I made it inside where I immediately joined a line with those waiting to see the public counsel.  I was one of many that day contesting a ticket for crossing the railroad tracks and I was advised that all those present were pleading not guilty.  I took my seat in court and waited for the session to begin, still uncertain as to the process that would follow.

It turned out to be uneventful as the judge and a lawyer representing one of the other CN trespassers discussed the cases as a batch.  It was decided that all those present contesting the trespassing charge would need to appear in court again for a hearing.  We were then all dismissed.  It was a rather anticlimatic event actually but now I will once again have to go to court so stay tuned.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Thanks for Following My Writing

October 10th is Thanksgiving this year and many people will come together around a dinner table and enjoy a fabulous turkey dinner.  I know that is likely what I will be doing.  As I thought about what I wanted to write about this week, I felt I wanted to cover an often overlooked angle of Thanksgiving.  I decided, instead of discussing football or food, I wanted to give thanks.

A few years ago I decided I wanted to try and do some writing and I approached the Kings County Record with a column idea.  From that day "Whalen's Wanderings" was born.  For that I want to thank the Kings County Record for allowing me to develop my voice.  Over the years my columns have varied in scope but a common inspiration has been family so a great deal of thanks and love is extended to them.

To those who read my column I also owe large thanks.  It has always been surprising when someone approaches me to discuss my last column.  It lifts me and pushes me to continue when I hear how someone enjoyed my column or that it led them to get out and wander.  When I started I didn't know if anyone would read what I had to say and now sometimes I'm scared I might not have anything to say. 

This region that we live in, and I write about, is a treasure of natural beauty, interesting culture, and full of artistic inspiration.  From the Atlantic International Balloon Fiesta to Friar's Nose to Dairy Town Classic to Poley Mountain, from Corner Stone to Chris Cummings, Kings County, New Brunswick, is lucky and blessed in so many ways.  I give thanks to the fact that I am able to live here and that I don't have to struggle with overcrowded living spaces and poor environmental and health conditions.  I appreciate the small struggles that we are faced with and give thanks for the lessons learned through these struggles.

So how do we show thanks on Thanksgiving.  Can we volunteer at a soup kitchen?  Do we clean up a section of bike trail that we enjoy every week?  Do we visit a senior's home for a friendly visit?  Maybe we could visit our grandparents and let them know how much influence they had on us.  Giving thanks doesn't just mean saying "thank you" it also means you give back to the community you live.  For many, these actions occur as a Thanksgiving ritual, but our community is blessed because many people in this area try to incorporate thankful living into our daily lives. 

Again I want to thank everyone who has taken the time to read my column and who have provided me with feed back or inspiration.  Thanks too to those who live a thankful life and therefore have made our community a great place to live.