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OCEAN BOUNTY Brenna Young hoists a freshly caught spring salmon off the coast of Langara Island in August.
Weathering the Ebb and Flow: Brenna Young Outlines the Lure of Commercial Fishing

Brenna Young will never forget standing on the deck of her father's fishing boat enjoying a glorious sunset at sea when a dozen massive humpback whales began breaching nearby.

"It takes your breath away," says the 21-year-old nursing student.

"It is magical."

It wasn't the first time, or likely the last, that Young was left wowed by the beauty to be found traversing BC's coastal waters.

he's grown up on commercial fishing vessels, accompanying her family and father for stretches on the ocean since age four.

She started working with her dad as a commercial fisher during the summer seasons in her early teens.

Beyond the incredible surroundings, Young finds fishing satisfying.

She gets to work with her dad, sister and close friends. And although gets claustrophobic at times, it brings them all together.

"A lot of girls my age wouldn't be able to spend that amount of time with their dad. It's made us super close," Young says.

There's also a huge rush to be had from bringing in a good haul of fish.

"When you pull up a line and see the salmon jerking and you get your gaff out and pull, landing it on the boat, there's a high."

"That's a $200 bill that just landed on the deck," Young notes.

There's a sense of accomplishment in feeding so many people and in helping her dad earn what it takes to put food on the table and a roof overhead at their home in Pender Harbour.

The good wages are a draw as well.

Young is currently in her second year of a BSN program at the University of Victoria and hopes to work in her community after a planned 2022 graduation.

Her income from fishing gives her the freedom to concentrate on her studies during the school year without having to work on the weekends.

But fishing is not all comfort in clover.

The days are long, the work is hard and the conditions can be gruelling.

When fishing for salmon, Young often finds herself on the water for 13 days at a time, working non-stop for as many as 15 hours a day.

On her father's troller, the Shirley Evelyn, kilos and kilos of the boat's catch must be hauled below into the onboard freezer that sits at – 25C.

"Putting fish down there is pretty brutal if it's raining and your clothes are already wet," Young observes.

Then there's the joy of waking up with cramped hands after snapping hundreds of hooks to lines and the constant gutting of cold halibut.

And not with some understatement, she observes the elements can work against you.

"The weather's not always the best. We had four-metre seas at the end of August."

Then there's the feeling of vulnerability experienced during a night watch off BC's North Coast. It's pitch black and there are other boats, rocks and huge freighters about in the same seas.

"You're always afraid of hitting something," Young says.

But the hard spells are offset by periods of extreme calm that she cherishes.

When waiting for fish, she settles down in the stern's cockpit and stares out at the ocean, listens to music and chills out.

There's no cell service, running chores, doing homework or other pressing distractions.

"I love that. You're completely disconnected," says Young.

"It gives you a lot of time to think and reflect. It's a calmness you never get at home.

"When I finally do step back on land, I'm physically exhausted but I have a fresh mindset." •

UPDATE (Dec 2019 / Jan 2020)
Updated: 12/23/2019 3:53 PM

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