By Abby Cooper
The idea of evolving is desired, but the feeling of connection to the process - that impact is contagious. When it comes to making an environmental difference in the ocean, well that isn’t simply conceived or executed by one, it’s a series of people making waves of connections that unite and inspire many to make sustainable changes.
Addison Farr of Squamish BC is one of those key people. His local charter company, Sea Dogs Expeditions is built on this exact concept. “I cast a pretty wide net and offer everything from tours and marine transport to a platform for research, science and fisheries survey work. We’re also involved in marine film and photo production as a support craft.” Regardless of the reason people end up on the water in Addison's company, there is something they all share in common - the connection to the Salish Sea. Without prompt, Addison always shares insights on marine life, plant life, and exploration opportunities in a way that leaves any ear hungry to learn more. He is a catalyst for connection. Be it a small curiosity and appreciation that people feel after getting a charter to ocean access only adventure or the satisfaction that people feel when visiting improved marine rec sites thanks to Addison's hard work and coordination or the greater changes that are implemented as a result from one of the surveys completed under his care.
Growing up surrounded in Ontario, Canada he shares “I was on the water before I took my first steps. My parents set me loose to explore the local rivers and lakes in my grandpa’s old aluminum boat - that really fuelled my desire to explore and learn about the local ecosystems growing up. Now I’m lucky to call Squamish home, the craving to explore is satisfied on the ocean.”
His business Sea Dogs Expeditions, is a small local charter operating in the Howe Sound, a large fjord just north of Vancouver in BC, Canada. It’s a stunning stretch of the Salish Sea where the Coast Mountain Range spills into the ocean, making for some picturesque and rugged coastlines - perfect to explore from the water. Addison operates an ex-Coast Guard rescue vessel which has been retrofitted for tours and transport, as well as research, science and survey work.
“I’d been thinking about this business for a while, just staring out at the sound and wanting to explore it and hadn’t had the opportunity, and I figured other people likely had that experience too. I’d always been connected to the water and I wanted to be out there and explore and help other people access it, which was the big motivation in starting the business at first. After a year of working on the back end of things, I finally found the boat and everything aligned in 2022. I managed to buy the little Zodiac (The Coastal Cowboy) and start actual operations in March 2022.”
In the year and a half of business Addison's impact is beyond measure. Arguably the most impactful project has been the Herring Survey project by the name of Search For Slhawt’. Addison shares, “It’s an incredible community and citizen science project in the Howe Sound. I became heavily involved this year, but the project dates back quite a few years with individuals trying to track herring spawn locations and density. The Sound was polluted by heavy industry for generations which all but sterilized sections of it. Community members like John Buchanan, Matthew Van Oostdan amongst others started surveying the shores around the Sound searching for this important foundational fish species, which is a clear indicator of ecosystem health and vitality. Years of surveying the shores revealed there were populations of herring spawning in the Squamish River estuary and all along the shores of the northern Howe Sound. The project is a collaborative effort between several groups including the Squamish Nation, Squamish-based non-profit Marine Stewardship Initiative, Squamish Stream Keepers, volunteers and individuals like Matthew.”
The scope of the daily Herrying survey is always changing, but never without the feeling of importance. “On our team's last day surveying for herring spawn this spring, we witnessed a school of anchovy being driven into the bay where we were working by dozens of California sea lions. Watching Matty and Jonny cast net for anchovy on traditional Squamish Nation territory was a pretty special moment.”
Beyond the Herrying project, Addison is also working with the BC Marine Trails Organization to improve rec-sites around the Howe Sound. Some of which haven’t seen many updates in years despite being used and exposed to wild weather - there has been plenty for Addison to keep up on.
Living in Squamish it is easy to feel disconnected to the Sound despite being an oceanfront town. Public access to the ocean is limited and undeveloped making it unobtainable for many to experience on their own accord. Spontaneously, Addison hosts coffee meet-ups for a minimal fee to head out on the water for two hours, coffee included. These Seadog subsidized experiences gift many a new perspective. It’s this type of initiative that sparks people's love and connection to the bigger picture of where they live and how their daily lives impact it. It’s a beautiful ripple effect. “The business is still finding its footing but I really like where it’s heading. I just love when we get off the boat at the end of the day—whether it’s a tour or a survey—and guests are so stoked on the day and have created almost a core memory from it.”
After accomplishing so much in such a short period, I couldn’t help but ask what’s next. “A little bit of everything I think! On the business side, we’re looking to continue to help folks access the coast between tours and transport and special community events. With the help of Fraser McDonald and the crew from Good Fish Co, we’re adding underwater ROV capabilities and a larger work vessel to the list of marine services we can provide; aiming to utilize both in research and survey work around the Coast. I’m also hoping to get involved with the at-sea fisheries observer program that monitors and collects catch data from various vessels, which is another step in the direction of doing more citizen-science-type projects and getting more involved in the research side of things. I’m just hoping and dreaming to make a living working on and connected to the ocean.”
It’s easy to see that all of Addison’s efforts on a personal and a professional level make waves in the local environment and people's mindsets - he might be just one person with a boat, but his impact is contagious and therefore immense. Learn more about Sea Dog Expeditions here.
Follow Addison Farr: https://www.instagram.com/addisonfarr/
Follow Sea Dog Expeditions: https://www.instagram.com/seadogexpeditions/
Follow Abby Cooper: https://www.instagram.com/abbydells/