Author and retired fisheries officer Randy Nelson spent the better part of 35 years chasing and, more often than not, catching poachers with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO).
Over the course of his career he also dealt with a good number of polluters and politicians. In his book, Poachers, Polluters and Politics – A Fisheries Officer’s Career, Nelson has chronicled some of his experiences dealing with angry, axe-wielding, rock-throwing, shotgun-blasting fishermen, evasive, uncooperative corporate cronies, and, as he so eloquently puts it, a number of political “brown-nosers and bobble-heads,” not to mention the occasional charging grizzly.
There are some 94 stories in the book that provide a unique insight into the lives of fisheries officers such as Nelson and the communities in which they served. Many of the stories deal with specific incidents. Others deal with long-term issues that continue, even to this day, to affect both the DFO and the fish stocks in B.C. Firm but fair and always passionate about his job, Nelson describes in unbiased detail the many different people and situations with which he was confronted. He pulls no punches when talking about his dealings with First Nations, private corporations and government bureaucrats, as well as groups and individuals within DFO. He readily admits to having challenged the status quo throughout his career.
In reading the book, one also gets the distinct impression that Nelson spent a considerable amount of time coming up with new and innovative ways to catch bad guys. It is equally clear Nelson was able to earn the respect and admiration of his fellow officers, as well as the people he dealt with in the various communities where he was posted – including, in some instances, the same people he had charged with offences.
Poachers, Polluters and Politics – A Fisheries Officer’s Career is an interesting, entertaining and enlightening read. However, having met Nelson and spoken with him a number of times, I find the man even more interesting than the book. Modest and unassuming, Nelson is also the most decorated fisheries officer in the history of B.C. Not only that, all the profits from the sales of his book go to The Fallen Officer’s Fund for the families of fish and wildlife officers killed in the line of duty.
(According to statistics, a fisheries or wildlife officer in North America is eight-times more likely to be killed on the job than a police officer.)
What impresses me the most about Nelson is that he never fails to call things the way he sees them.
“Corporate greed and the push for profit will often trump concerns for the environment. Today, most companies understand the public’s awareness of the environment and will spend millions to convince the public that they are good environmental stewards. Any time a large company initiates an ad campaign, you can almost be certain they have recently been caught on the wrong side of the law, or are trying to avert a bad reputation. Companies that take their environmental responsibilities seriously rarely need to advertise.”
Nelson also notes how budget cuts and enforcement downsizing have left B.C. open to fish poachers with little risk of getting caught.
Randy Nelson will be at Hidden Gems Bookstore at 331 Alexander St. NE on Saturday, Dec. 6, between 11 a.m. an 3 p.m., to chat with people and sign copies of his book. If prompted, I’m sure he will also be willing to share a few stories.