The community of Bella Bella is rallying around one of its own after a local’s boat was sunk.
Last week, Robert S. Johnson had moored his boat, the Shawnamarie, when someone tied their punt boat to his without his knowledge. The punt filled with water and sank Johnson’s boat and all his gear with it.
Johnson is well-known in the community for being a fisherman and regular food provider, supplying many families in the area with a secure source of meals. Speaking to the West Coast Now, he stated, “My boat is used for food security for my family, which includes salmon, ducks, geese, halibut, clams, and more.”
He’s also a coastal first responder and has helped numerous people in his community and beyond. “I’m the Zone Coordinator for the Coastal Nations Search and Rescue. And last year when we first started the program, we didn’t have a community boat, so my boat was used as the community boat,” he said regarding his pivotal marine safety role.
A GoFundMe Fundraiser has been created for Robert to recover his boat and some of his gear, hosted by local Kai Nagata. The funds will cover the “$8,000 in engine repairs and approximately $3,000 to repair or replace his winch, rifles, downriggers, VHF radios and other navigation and safety gear” according to the page.
The fundraiser is currently at $1,400 of its $11,000 goal. Johnson’s mother also raffled off some local treats in support of her son, including sockeye, seaweed, and a case of blackberry jam; another community member is raffling off a dehydrator for the boat recovery fund.
Johnson made province-wide news in 2013 as a bear guardian protecting wildlife against poachers on Heiltsuk territory. NHL player Clayton Stoner was illegally hunting on the land, and killed and beheaded a young grizzly named Cheeky. Johnson was instrumental in collecting the evidence that led to Stoner’s eventual conviction. The ordeal was told in a short documentary, Bear Witness, which you can watch on Youtube here.
In the GoFundMe description, Nagata writes: “Robert and his family have faced a series of tragedies and setbacks recently. The sinking of the Shawnamarie is too much on top of everything else. I am asking you to give what you can to get Robert back out on Heiltsuk waters as soon as possible, so he can continue his important work.”