HUME, Stephen (1947- )

Author Tags: Local History, Women

Stephen Hume was born in Blackpool, England and emigrated with his parents. He was raised in fishing, farming and logging communities across Alberta and BC and studied at the University of Victoria. A journalist for over 35 years, Hume was editor-in-chief at the Edmonton Journal before moving to BC to become columnist and feature writer for the Vancouver Sun. He is currently a teacher of professional writing at University of Victoria. His writing has won more than a dozen awards, including a Dolly Connelly prize for environmental writing. “What Hume has forgotten about this province is more than most journalists will ever know,” wrote fellow B.C. author and journalist Terry Glavin.

Hume has also won the Writers Guild of Alberta literary award, the Southam President's Award and the Marjorie Nichols Memorial Award.

His books include a collection of essays, Ghost Camps, books of poetry and the text that accompanied Graham Osborne's photographs in British Columbia: A Wild and Fragile Beauty.

Based on an award-winning series called 'Frontier Women of BC', he published a compendium called Raincoast Chronicles 20: Lilies and Fireweed. Subjects include the first European woman in B.C., Frances Barkley, who twice circumnavigated the globe, and Maria Pollard Grant, who became the first woman elected to public office in B.C. in 1895. Hume is also one of the co-authors of A Stain Upon the Sea: West Coast Salmon Farming, a critique of fish farming practices that received the 2005 Roderick Haig-Brown Prize.

Stephen Hume’s well-illustrated tribute to the life and achievements of the blunt and tenacious Vermont-born explorer Simon Fraser, Simon Fraser: In Search of Modern British Columbia (Harbour $36.95), arose from his series of articles in The Vancouver Sun. It received the Roderick Haig-Brown Regional Prize for best book about British Columbia in 2009. This biography traces and reconstructs Fraser’s route down and back up the river that bears his name. As an extensive tribute to Fraser’s contribution to B.C. history, this quest-styled exploration simultaneously reasserts the importance of the fur trade as a foundation for the series of forts the evolved into present-day British Columbia.

Other books include essays in Bush Telegraph and Off the Map.

Review of the author's work by BC Studies:
Simon Fraser: In Search of Modern British Columbia
A Stain upon the Sea: West Coast Salmon Farming
A Walk with the Rainy Sisters: In Praise of British Columbia's Places


A Walk with the Rainy Sisters: In Praise of British Columbia's Places (Harbour, 2010). 978-1-55017-505-9 : $32.95.
Simon Fraser: In Search of Modern British Columbia (Harbour, 2008). 978-1-55017-434-2
A Stain Upon The Sea: West Coast Salmon Farming (Harbour, 2004)
Lilies and Fireweed: Frontier Women of British Columbia (Harbour, 2004)
Off The Map: Western Travels on Roads Less Taken (Harbour, 2001)
Bush Telegraph: Discovering the Pacific Province (Harbour, 1999)
Ghost Camps: A Memory and Myth on Canada's Frontiers (Newest, 1989)
And the House Sank Like a Ship in the Long Prairie Grass (Cormorant Books, 1987)
Signs against an Empty Sky (Quadrant Editions, 1980)

BC Book Prize, 2000
Jack Webster Award, 2000, 2002
Marjorie Nichols Memorial Award for non-fiction, 1995
Alberta Writers Guild Literary Award - non-fiction, 1989

[BCBW 2015] "Women" "Local History"

Lilies and Fireweed: Frontier Women of British Columbia (2004)
Publisher's promotional material

"Lilies and Fireweed is packed with unforgettable stories of women surviving in the unforgiving, sometimes hostile environment of pioneer and aboriginal British Columbia. Based on award-winning journalist Stephen Hume's popular series "Frontier Women of BC" that appeared in the Vancouver Sun in 2002, this collection of essays contains stories, photographs and other materials that have never before been published. From hospitals to dance halls, and from the classroom to the cannery floor, this insightful pictorial history examines indigenous and immigrant women's positions in the workplace, home and wilderness. Hume delves into the lives of aboriginal and pioneer women who had an important and multifaceted influence on the development of British Columbia. We meet women such as 17-year-old Frances Barkley, who insisted on accompanying her husband on a merchant voyage to British Columbia in 1786 and subsequently twice circumnavigated the world; Lady Amelia Douglas - a Cree woman and wife of Governor James Douglas - who had her own important but often overlooked role in the forging of British Columbia; Mrs. Washiji Oya, the first Japanese woman to settle in Canada in 1887; and Maria Pollard Grant, who, in 1895, became the first woman elected to public office in BC. Brimming with fascinating historical photographs, Lilies and Fireweed brings to light the forgotten stories of mothers, dance-hall girls, artists, teachers and adventurers that are as enthralling and diverse as BC itself." -- Harbour Publishing

A Stain Upon The Sea (Harbour $26.95)

B.C. consumers may be forgiven for being confused about whether to let a farmed Atlantic salmon land on their plate. There’s a blistering war of words out there. The stakes are immeasurably high. A coalition of environmentalists, commercial fishermen and native groups argue the very future of wild salmon stocks, the marine environment and possibly human health are at risk. “Exaggerated and misleading,” says the salmon farming industry, assuring us fish farming is environmentally sound, takes pressure off fishing wild stocks and is key to revitalizing coastal communities like Port Hardy and Campbell River. Stephen Hume, Alexandra Morton, Betty C. Keller, Rosella M. Leslie, Otto Langer and Don Staniford offere a critical evaluation of fish farming in A Stain Upon The Sea (Harbour $26.95), reviewed here by Mark Forsythe.

British Columbia, now the world’s fourth largest producer of farmed salmon. Having generated 1,800 direct jobs, and another 2,000 indirect jobs in small coastal communities, fish farming is regarded by some people as an economic saviour. Salmon farming has become the province’s biggest agricultural exporter (about 15% of total agricultural production) returning more than $600 million to the economy each year. In 2002 the province lifted a moratorium on expansion. The industry—outlawed in Alaska—is now poised to take its open-net cage pens to the North Coast of B.C. A billion dollars of new economic activity is predicted over the next ten years.

A Stain Upon The Sea (Harbour $26.95) arrives just in time re-ignite debate for the upcoming spring election. This collection of essays, written by six critics, is a harpoon launched at the industry and government regulators.
As conservationist Terry Glavin points out in the introduction, aquaculture has been with us for thousands of years, from oyster breeding to clam gardens. So what’s really new? “Salmon are carnivores.” he writes. “For the first time in history we’re raising carnivores for food. So it is an experiment, one might say. And by so intensively interfering in the process of natural selection, by subjecting salmon to such elaborate methods of artificial selection, by genetic tinkering and by long term selective breeding, we are creating a wholly new species.”

We are also tinkering with a symbol unlike any other. To many, wild salmon is the soul of British Columbia. Journalist and columnist Stephen Hume has examined the “collision between the artificial and the natural” in his piece about a trip to the Broughton Archipelago where one of the biggest recorded collapses of pink salmon occurred, in 2002. Almost four million pinks were expected to return to six local rivers, but precious few showed up. One fisherman searching for the fish called it a “watery wasteland.” It wasn’t long before fishermen and local whale researcher Alexandra Morton were connecting missing salmon with fish farms in the area. Morton began testing smolts entering salt water near the farms, and reported finding them covered with sea lice (9,145 sea lice on 872 pink salmon smolts). “I noticed bleeding at their eyeballs and bleeding at the base of the fins, which are classic symptoms of fish disease. I was horrified to see these baby fish being ravaged by these parasites,” Morton writes. The fish were being eaten alive. Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) questioned her science, but the Pacific Fisheries Resource Conservation Council, an independent watchdog chaired by former federal fisheries minister John Fraser, backed her up. Industry was ordered to fallow 11 of the 27 farms that fall to create a migration window to make smolts less vulnerable to sea lice. This partial fallowing seemed to have an effect, as significantly fewer fish were infected that year. However, DFO scientists assert there is still no study that shows a cause-and-effect relationship between sea lice on wild and farmed fish. Hume’s journey continues to western Ireland with its longer history of fish farming. He meets fisheries biologists who consider the sea lice infestation of our pinks a replay of what happened to juvenile sea trout (with similar life cycles) in their waters. One comments, “We’ve lost a wild sea trout angling fishery that was worth millions of pounds. Fisheries here that used to be phenomenal are now derelict.”

Irish scientists are now pushing for a ban on fish farms where migrating smolts could come into contact with farmed fish. The manager of a 250-year-old fishing lodge, forced to cater to cyclists and hikers, says, “We’re witnessing the death of the fishery.” According to Hume, fish farming is a divisive issue among British Columbia’s First Nations. The Kitasoo at Klemtu, for example, are looking to the industry as a way to cut devastating unemployment rates of 85%. But other First Nations are vowing to fight expansion in their territory.
Alaskans are also sounding the alarm. Many fear that expansion coming near
Prince Rupert will mean more escapes of Atlantics, imported stock that could muscle in on the habitat of wild stocks. One critic considers these Canadian fish “smart bombs” carrying potentially lethal biological payloads upon the wild stocks. Fish farmers are quick to respond that pathogens found in farmed Atlantics are actually indigenous to wild stocks. Don’t blame the farmed fish.
Ever since B.C.’s first fish farm was established by forestry giant Crown Zellerback at Ocean Falls, the fortunes of salmon farming have been rising and falling. Sunshine Coast contributors Betty Keller and Rosetta Leslie provide a chronology of the ups and downs in their essay called Sea-Silver.

By 1989 the silver rush was well underway, with 185 small salmon farms in B.C., operated by more than 100 companies. By 1993, “as a result of storms, disease, algal blooms and rock-bottom salmon prices, those numbers had shrunk to 80 farms operated by 17 companies, but they had become large farms and international companies.” Today mostly those farms are far bigger and more automated.

A Stain Upon the Sea effectively marshals arguments against fish farming on various fronts. We hear the voices of sports fishermen worried about the future of wild salmon stocks and a $1.5 billion dollar tourist fishing industry. Commercial fishermen are spitting mad after seeing wild salmon runs go extinct (some fish farmers argue these commercial fishermen over-fished these very stocks), catches reduced and salmon prices hit rock bottom.
Former DFO biologist and now Director of Marine Conservation for the David Suzuki Foundation, Otto Langer skewers the DFO bureaucracy for not living up to its job of protecting wild salmon stocks and habitat. He traces this to reorganization at DFO back in 1971, “when pollution staff were taken from DFO and moved to the new Department of the Environment (DOE). This meant that people responsible for fish habitat protection were no longer responsible for the quality of the water that the fish lived in.” Langer suggests cuts to staff and industry self-policing haven’t helped either. “Sadly, the environmental enforcement record goes up and down like the tide in Prince Rupert. For most of the past 30 years, DFO and DOE have failed to protect the water quality when it would conflict with the needs of the provincial government or industry.” This 32-year DFO veteran sees the department in a conflict of interest: tasked with protecting wild salmon while it’s simultaneously mandated to encourage development of aquaculture.

Don Staniford, a director of the Salmon Farm Protest Group in Scotland, pens a chilling chapter called Silent Spring of the Sea to describe a “chemical arms race” within the industry due to antibiotics, artificial colourings, antiparasitics and antifoulants. Some of these substances have polluted the ocean and can be lethal to other species like shrimp, lobster and mussels.
In Scotland an artificial pink dye used to alter the colour of salmon flesh for marketing purposes was linked to retinal damage in humans. Dichlorvos, used previously in the U.K. and B.C., has been linked to testicular cancer. Ivermectin, an in-feed treatment for sea lice, can produce severe side effects.
That did not stop Canadians from giving thousands of farmed salmon a massive drug overdose. In 2000 as many as 10,000 farmed salmon were killed at a farm in the Broughton Archipelago. A new treatment being used in trials is a new product called Slice. The catchy sales slogan is Slice Kills Lice but critics fear it might harm or kill other marine life. Staniford argues, all too often, risk assessments are done after chemicals have been approved, and when a “risk assessment is finally published years later (after the targets’ resistance to the chemical has made its use redundant anyway), a new chemical takes its place.”

Whale researcher Alexandra Morton, the woman who’s come to symbolize the fight against salmon farming, closes the book. When she first saw a net pen being towed into the Broughton Archipelago, Morton thought salmon farming might be a good thing for the area, but she soon “lost trust in the system.” The government permitted farms to be located in what local fishermen considered to be sensitive ‘red zones’, important to wild stocks. Atlantic smolts infected with furunculosis were allowed to stay in the water at one farm, possibly posing a threat to wild stocks. “I felt it (DFO) was working to hide the truth,” she says. From her eye-witness perspective, Morton chronicles escaped Atlantics, disease outbreaks on farms and the sea lice infestation which she believes brought on the crash of the Broughton pink—confirming most of the suspicions that many British Columbians have about a high powered industry having its way in public waters. A Stain Upon the Sea is pretty much a one-sided argument. Next year, Raincoast Books will release a book on fish farming by Peter Robson. 1-55017-317-0

--by Mark Forsythe

[BCBW 2004] "Environment"

A Stain Upon the Sea
Press Release (2005)


An award-winning and controversial book, A Stain Upon the Sea: West Coast Salmon Farming, will be discovered by a whole new audience on Tuesday, October 11 when it’s featured on ABC’s hit show Boston Legal.

The Boston Legal episode, titled “Finding Nimmo” was filmed at Nimmo Bay Resort in British Columbia in April 2005. The episode features lawyers Alan Shore and Denny Crane, played by James Spader and William Shatner, vacationing at the resort for some fly fishing and “male bonding.” At the resort Shore and Crane discover that the salmon population is being threatened by sea lice produced by fish farms and they feel compelled to act.

A Stain Upon the Sea­-published last fall by Harbour Publishing-­is an indispensable critique of fish farming practices used in British Columbia and abroad, featuring an all-star cast of contributors. Journalist Stephen Hume examines the industry through the eyes of the Nuxalk and Heiltsuk Nations and incorporates case studies from Ireland and Alaska. Historians Betty Keller and Rosella M. Leslie explain the development of the industry in BC, from small family operations to large chain farms owned by a handful of multinational conglomerates. Biologist Alexandra Morton analyzes the biology of sea lice in the pink salmon runs in the Broughton Archipelago. Former federal employee Otto Langer gives an in-depth account of the bureaucratic nightmare that exempted the industry from environmental review. And scientist Don Staniford analyzes the chemical stew that farmed fish are raised in and the health risk this poses to humans.

A Stain Upon the Sea won the 2005 Roderick Haig-Brown Award for best book published about British Columbia, and was shortlisted for George Ryga Award for Social Awareness this past June.

Boston Legal’s “Finding Nimmo” will air at 10 pm on October 11, 2005.