Island Life

Our speaker Jane Wynne, charted the social history of Fogo Island – from early settlers though a time of crisis in 1960 when the population was under threat of relocation, to a more recent unexpected response to similar economic challenges.

Before hearing this talk I knew nothing of Fogo Island. Afterwards I was left pondering the difficulties faced by an isolated community without the means to provide a livelihood for its people. Although Saturna and Fogo islands are very different in many respects, Saturna faces a somewhat similar challenge. Its interesting to hear how these challenges have been met in Fogo in an innovative if unique (from a financial standpoint) manner.

In the 1960’s Fogo Island became known for a series of films which were made of life on the island. The films were a way for the isolated communities on Fogo Island to collectively communicate and reflect on their predicament. One initiative triggered by these reflections was the Fishing Co-operative which exists to this day. You can watch these films here.

More recently as traditional fishing stocks collapsed the island found financial help and inspiration from one of their own – Zita Cobb. Successful in business, her approach was founded in the ideas of social enterprise.

“Philanthropic funds are used to develop new business systems, creating community owned assets with financial return reinvested back into the place it is designed to serve.” Learn more here.

As the islands first geologist in residence, Jane Wynne experienced life on Fogo and described to us in a humorous and vivid manner the initiatives that underpin the Shorefast social enterprise model – ranging from developments in culture, arts and crafts though geotourism to microlending and a new approach to use of the ocean resources. We were entreated to a join in a rendition of “I’s the B’y” which features a mention of Fogo in the chorus.

The keystone project was the design and construction of Fogo Island Inn – a unique building that stands at the edge of the ocean. Locally designed and manufactured items furnish the building and visitors are encouraged to join locally run programs that allow them to experience life on the island. Guided geology walks are just one of many options. Jane spoke enthusiastically on her main contribution – introducing guests to island to its geological wonders. (The first geological maps of the island were prepared in 1958 by David Baird. He was a renowned Canadian geologist and keen photographer.)

Fogo Inn is a very expensive place to stay or even have a drink at by all accounts - but there are plenty of less expensive accommodation options on the island. You can find more information on their website.

Replicating the whole Shorefast, Fogo Island approach is more than Saturna could support with its smaller size and resources – unless we have an extremely wealthy philanthropist about to step forward - but we should keep an open mind as I think there are scalable ideas to be gleaned. Perhaps Saturna could develop a self guided geology trail at East Point for example.

Thanks are due to Jane for an interesting and thought provoking talk to a good turnout – there were approximately 45 people present. Refreshments were served afterwards – and the questions and discussions continued.

With philanthropy in mind Tony Green closed the talk with a plea for donations to SIMRES for a new underwater camera. He asked if we knew that fish could sing - the camera will help to identify which fish are being recorded “singing” on the hydrophones. Tax receipts can be issued for donations of $20 or above as SIMRES is a registered charity. The goal is to raise $5000. You can contact SIMRES for more information or to donate.

Photos and reporting by Mairead Boland