Brian Harvey grew up on the west coast of Canada where he studied marine biology and fish physiology at the University of Victoria and the University of British Columbia, receiving his Ph.D. in 1979 after a detour through the Faculty of Music. He has extensive global experience in fisheries management and conservation, and is an international policy and practice expert in aquatic biodiversity.

The planned diversion of the San Francisco River in northeast Brazil in the face of major protests is the main case study for biologist Brian Harvey's The End of the River: Strangling the Rio Sao Francisco (ECW $19.95), written after Harvey witnessed thousands of fish blundering into a dam. It also examines fisheries management on the Fraser River, with detours to the great Tsukiji fish market in Japan, the Philippines, Thailand and other parts of South America. Written for the layperson, it details the mis-use of science on water and fisheries management.

In 1995, Harvey teamed with Ex-Minister of Fisheries John Fraser to create World Fisheries Trust as a home base for his projects. He served as its President and Executive Director from 1995 to 2005. He left WFT in 2005, in the middle of a $3 million project on Brazilian freshwater fisheries, having written one final report too many. Since then he has worked independently, focusing on endangered species reports for the federal and provincial governments, having worked for international clients in Asia, Latin America and especially Brazil. (A brief flirtation with high tech produced the world's only laser-aimed underwater dart gun and some unhappy investors.)

A frequent guest speaker, Harvey has produced several projects to raise public awareness, including Up the Creek, a salmon board game. Harvey has also written "Against the Current," a travel column for the Victoria Times-Colonist, Reality Check (for Waters magazine) and science-travel articles for Escape and Westworld. He lives in Victoria and is married to Hatsumi Nakagawa, whose father is in the fish business in Tokyo. Harvey continues to work in fisheries as a consultant through Fugu Fisheries Ltd.

According to ECW Press: After a 25-year break from boating, Brian Harvey circumnavigates Vancouver Island with his wife, his dog, and a box of documents that surfaced after his father's death. John Harvey was a neurosurgeon, violinist, and photographer who answered his door a decade into retirement to find a sheriff with a summons. It was a malpractice suit, and it did not go well. Dr. Harvey never got over it. The box contained every nurse's record, doctor's report, trial transcript, and expert testimony related to the case. Only Brian's father had read it all. In this memoir, Sea Trial: Sailing after My Father, Brian Harvey shares how after two months of voyaging with his father's ghost, he finally finds out what happened in the O.R. that crucial night and why Dr. Harvey felt compelled to fight the excruciating accusations.

Sea Trial: Sailing After My Father by Brian Harvey
(ECW Press $21.95)

Review by Theo Dombrowski , 2019

The outline is simple enough: the author records a two-month sailing circumnavigation of Vancouver Island, while, concurrently, going through a box of legal documents related to a malpractice lawsuit against his dead father, a neurosurgeon.

At the outset there is something almost "British" about the writing. Self-deprecating humour, lightness of touch, and an inclination to give a wry account of his own (substantial) fears and uncertainties make his a very easy voice to listen to, whether chatting about rocks and reefs, or lawyers and legalities.

Only towards the intense conclusion do the emotions become torrential.

Brian Harvey is a social animal. In anchorage after anchorage he sidles up to others for a chat. His capacity to describe, evoke, mimic, and mock (usually, but not always, affectionately) is one of this book's most entertaining features.

The funniest and most endearing characters are the rest of the crew -- Harvey's wife Hatsumi, and Charley, a schnauzer. Charley cannot swim.

Charley's bladder, other dogs, squirting clams, rich sports fishermen and much else, are all drily recorded.

Spotting a Japanese flag on a nearby boat, Harvey, ever the extrovert, proposes a visit. "But we don't know them!" Hatsumi avers. Not for the first -- or last -- time Harvey reminds us, carefully, "Sometimes, my wife could be quite Japanese."

His accounts of learning to sail are hilarious: "One gloomy video was a re-enactment of the death of an entire family from CO2 inhalation: the actors rolled their eyes and went down like tenpins."

The book is, however, arguably less about either a sailing trip or a legal case, than it is about Harvey himself. So infused is he in everything he observes, remembers, or discovers (in his father's papers), that the overwhelming impression we are left with is of a man at sea.

Very, very few readers are likely to put down Sea Trial and rush off to the nearest yacht broker to buy a sailboat. The 'postcardy' bits are overshadowed by Harvey's vivid evocations of icy temperatures, dripping, impenetrable fogs, savage winds, treacherous currents, malevolent rocks, and towering seas.

The trip is a greasy litany of mechanical crises—leaking oil, broken starters, failing batteries and more. Some writers would use these crises as an opportunity to suggest (or even underline) their prowess and fortitude. There is no swagger here. Dread, panic, nerves, anxieties -- and self-criticism -- inflect every gust and lurch.

Pointy mountains and emerald forests pop up on cue, as do guest appearances of puffins, wolves, dolphins, sea otters, and whales, as Harvey provides an elegaic history of a coast dotted with disappointed hopes and failed lives.

Eventually we approach the daunting kernel of the book: the malpractice suit.

Harvey takes pains to make a seamless link between discovering the coast and understanding the documents. Both the box of notes and his interest in sailing are "gifts" from his father. Ultimately, the real purpose of the investigation, to discover the elder Harvey's character, is movingly achieved.

By the end of both "journeys," exterior and interior, Harvey is wrung out. Appropriately, the book concludes, "we did the usual things with winches and jib sheets, the sails filled again, and we headed home."

Some might hear echoes of probably the most seminal sea voyage in Western literature, "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner:"
He went like one that been stunned,
And is of sense forlorn:
A sadder and a wiser man,
He rose the morrow morn.


Theo Dombrowski of Nanoose Bay has written and illustrated Secret Beaches of the Salish Sea, Seaside Walks of Vancouver Island and Family Walks and Hikes of Vancouver Island (Volume 1): Victoria to Nanaimo, and (Volume 2): Nanaimo North to Strathcona Park.



Blue Genes (Earthscan, 2004)
The End of a River (ECW Press, 2008) 978-1-55022-845-8
Beethoven's Tenth (Raven/Orca 2014) $9.95 978-145-9808690
Sea Trial: Sailing After My Father (ECW Press, 2019) $21.95 9781770414778 (pbk)

[BCBW 2019] Environment