Off the coast of Vancouver Island, Canada
By Ben Nelms
Last year, Canada became home to the first shark fishery in the world that was labeled with a Marine Stewardship Council certification. This is an internationally recognized certification that lists the B.C Spiny Dogfish Shark industry as ‘certified sustainable seafood.’ The fishery is located in the Pacific waters of Canada, off the coast and around Vancouver Island.
I spent a handful of nights on a commercial fishing boat called the Ocean Sunset. We departed from the small village of Ucluelet, which is on the Western shores of Vancouver Island. The only thing I forgot on land was my sea legs.
After a few hours of rough swells, the sea got the better of me and I was ‘feeding the fish’ as the crew would say. This was terrible for two reasons; Firstly, anyone who has been seasick on a commercial fishing boat knows that the environment is cramped, restless and rotting fish bait surrounds you. Secondly, after working to get access to this boat for nearly two months, I knew I couldn’t stop documenting life on the boat just because I was sick.
The shark fishing itself is interesting and the ship’s crews have the process down like clockwork. The kilometer long lines are flung into the depths of the ocean and two crewmen attach bait with hooks to the line while it unwinds. After placing two of these long lines out in the ocean, the boat hurries back to the first one and starts winching the line up with their catch. The sharks that are caught are brought overboard and seamlessly unhooked and flung into the deep storage freezer below deck in one swift movement.
After a few hours, I had to start looking for different angles. The process is often so quick that they could bring up roughly 10 sharks in a minute. After four days, I had to develop new ways to find a fresh way to photograph this tedious process.