In defence of wild salmon

May 14, 2024

By: Wayne Halabourda

In defence of wild salmon

May 14, 2024

By: Dene Moore

I’ve known Craig Orr, co-founder of Watershed Watch Salmon Society, for close to 40 years.

We were first introduced by a mutual friend, biologist Jeremy Abbott. Together the three of us had many epic steelhead fishing adventures on such rivers as the Stamp, Thompson, and Vedder. With such fiercely named fishing clubs as the Kingfishers and Ospreys, we decided to form our own fishing ante-club, the Dippers.

There were many who sought membership, but none who measured up. The Dippers were three, until tragically, Jeremy was killed in a helicopter crash in September 1988 while surveying fish stocks on the Atnarko River.

Craig and I fished together for a few years after, but soon fell out of touch. And then in the early 2000s I received a call from Craig. He told me he and Pete Broomhall had started a salmon conservation group, Watershed Watch Salmon Society. Back then, operating out of the basement in Craig’s Coquitlam home, they were little more than Craig, Trish Hall, Stan Proboszcz and a few contractors laying the groundwork for what would become a most formidable voice advocating for wild salmon.

By then the aquaculture culture was firmly entrenched on the Pacific coast. And with the mounting pressure from too many stakeholders – forestry, mining, agriculture, hydro projects, water usage, commercial salmon harvesting, sport fishing and First Nations interests – their work quickly became an urgent David and Goliath struggle.

As it turned out, Craig’s call was not without an ulterior motive. He asked if I would be interested in joining Watershed Watch’s Board of Directors. If memory serves, I recall saying that I had zero administrative experience, but would be honoured to volunteer. It helps that we are a governance style of board, preferring to play a behind-the-scenes role.

Basically, we tried to stay out of everyone’s way, letting them do what they do best: Stand up for our wild salmon. I do not remember the circumstances, but a few years later, our board chair resigned. At this point, I received another call from Craig asking if I would be willing to serve as the new chair. I was still very inexperienced. For all I knew Robert’s Rules could have been for cricket. Craig’s main selling point was that this would be an INTERIM position until someone more suitable was cajoled onto the board.

That INTERIM position would last another 17 years.

There would be no more important role for the board than when, in 2014, Craig announced his imminent retirement and we were charged with hiring his replacement. How do you replace the co-founder who spearheaded the whole organization? The board, after soliciting applications, conducting interviews, and conferring amongst ourselves, came up with a novel solution. Replace him with not one, but two people. We split the executive director’s duties with a new position: operations director. Together Aaron Hill and Trish Hall had the courage and dedication to take up the torch and make Watershed Watch their own.

From Craig’s initial vision and drive to Aaron’s tireless commitment, Watershed Watch Salmon Society has grown from a respected salmon advocacy group into the premier voice and champion of wild salmon. It is hard to imagine what the salmon picture in this province would look like without Watershed Watch’s ongoing campaign in defence of wild salmon.

Wayne Halabourda stepped down in May 2023 after nearly 20 years as a director and chair of Watershed Watch’s Board of Directors.

Wayne Halabourda (front, centre) was among the many supporters and staff of Watershed Watch Salmon Society who gathered at the Patagonia store in Vancouver in early May to celebrate 25 years in defence of wild salmon. The crowd included co-founders Craig Orr and Pete Broomhall, as well as well-known environmentalist Vicky Husband and current board members Rich Ronyecz and Autumn Longley.

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In defence of wild salmon

May 14, 2024

By: Wayne Halabourda

In defence of wild salmon

May 14, 2024

By: Dene Moore

I’ve known Craig Orr, co-founder of Watershed Watch Salmon Society, for close to 40 years.

We were first introduced by a mutual friend, biologist Jeremy Abbott. Together the three of us had many epic steelhead fishing adventures on such rivers as the Stamp, Thompson, and Vedder. With such fiercely named fishing clubs as the Kingfishers and Ospreys, we decided to form our own fishing ante-club, the Dippers.

There were many who sought membership, but none who measured up. The Dippers were three, until tragically, Jeremy was killed in a helicopter crash in September 1988 while surveying fish stocks on the Atnarko River.

Craig and I fished together for a few years after, but soon fell out of touch. And then in the early 2000s I received a call from Craig. He told me he and Pete Broomhall had started a salmon conservation group, Watershed Watch Salmon Society. Back then, operating out of the basement in Craig’s Coquitlam home, they were little more than Craig, Trish Hall, Stan Proboszcz and a few contractors laying the groundwork for what would become a most formidable voice advocating for wild salmon.

By then the aquaculture culture was firmly entrenched on the Pacific coast. And with the mounting pressure from too many stakeholders – forestry, mining, agriculture, hydro projects, water usage, commercial salmon harvesting, sport fishing and First Nations interests – their work quickly became an urgent David and Goliath struggle.

As it turned out, Craig’s call was not without an ulterior motive. He asked if I would be interested in joining Watershed Watch’s Board of Directors. If memory serves, I recall saying that I had zero administrative experience, but would be honoured to volunteer. It helps that we are a governance style of board, preferring to play a behind-the-scenes role.

Basically, we tried to stay out of everyone’s way, letting them do what they do best: Stand up for our wild salmon. I do not remember the circumstances, but a few years later, our board chair resigned. At this point, I received another call from Craig asking if I would be willing to serve as the new chair. I was still very inexperienced. For all I knew Robert’s Rules could have been for cricket. Craig’s main selling point was that this would be an INTERIM position until someone more suitable was cajoled onto the board.

That INTERIM position would last another 17 years.

There would be no more important role for the board than when, in 2014, Craig announced his imminent retirement and we were charged with hiring his replacement. How do you replace the co-founder who spearheaded the whole organization? The board, after soliciting applications, conducting interviews, and conferring amongst ourselves, came up with a novel solution. Replace him with not one, but two people. We split the executive director’s duties with a new position: operations director. Together Aaron Hill and Trish Hall had the courage and dedication to take up the torch and make Watershed Watch their own.

From Craig’s initial vision and drive to Aaron’s tireless commitment, Watershed Watch Salmon Society has grown from a respected salmon advocacy group into the premier voice and champion of wild salmon. It is hard to imagine what the salmon picture in this province would look like without Watershed Watch’s ongoing campaign in defence of wild salmon.

Wayne Halabourda stepped down in May 2023 after nearly 20 years as a director and chair of Watershed Watch’s Board of Directors.

Wayne Halabourda (front, centre) was among the many supporters and staff of Watershed Watch Salmon Society who gathered at the Patagonia store in Vancouver in early May to celebrate 25 years in defence of wild salmon. The crowd included co-founders Craig Orr and Pete Broomhall, as well as well-known environmentalist Vicky Husband and current board members Rich Ronyecz and Autumn Longley.

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Stand with us to defend wild Pacific salmon

Stand with us to defend wild Pacific salmon

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