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News from Ecotrust Canada

Telling the Stories Behind the Statistics


In 2014, DFO reported that BC’s commercial fisheries had 2,514 registered vessels and 5,402 licenced fishermen. They landed 149,484 tonnes of wild-caught finfish, earning almost $255 million.

Impressive numbers all around, but something’s still missing.

We’re used to seeing numbers in aggregate, but this understanding of the world blurs away the individuals who make these statistics happen. Who are the 5,402 fishermen? What do they think of the industry? Their livelihoods? What are their hopes and fears? Why do they do what they do?

Whether in fisheries, forestry, clean energy development, or mapping, we think it’s important to see the forest and the trees; hear the statistics and then listen to the stories and the people behind them.

Below, we share three ways we’re bringing the story of the individual to life.

Chelsey Ellis

Putting a face to an industry

"Fishing is immensely hard work that deserves to be recognized," says Chelsey Ellis, Project Coordinator in Fisheries and Marine Monitoring and our resident photographer. "I take photos of the fishing industry because to be a fisher is such an incredibly unique experience and way of life."

"Fishing is a lifestyle that connects people to each other in a very powerful way."


Unlike land-based industries, we often don't see the work that goes into harvesting our seafood. Chelsey's photos give us important day-in-the-life glimpses into what it's like working in BC's commercial fishing industry.

Eliana Macdonald

Mapping relationships with the land

"I love cartography because it turns science into art," says Eliana Macdonald, Manager of our Knowledge Systems Program. "It’s a way of describing a situation through engagement with the visual (and sometimes tactile) sense.

“I recently saw Going Home Star, where residential school survivors’ experiences are turned into a beautiful ballet,” says Eliana. “Such a different way of approaching a challenging topic allows connection and understanding to occur in a different way – more emotionally than cerebrally.

“Excellent cartography – that which approaches art – can allow similar connections to data, illuminating relationships that would have otherwise remained obscure.

“We work with communities that need access to information to describe their experiences of home and place. Mapping can make lived experiences tangible, and facilitate communication between groups where words may fail.”

"Maps are powerful statements of truth and reality."

Andrea Robertson

Telling stories with data

"It's frustrating to see data hidden behind dense text or bad graphs," says Andrea Robertson, Project Manager in Fisheries and Communications. "That's a wasted opportunity."

"Information should illuminate, not alienate."


Accessibility is an important consideration in all of our work – does this graph, map, or report meet people’s needs? Regardless of medium, we strive to tell a story tailored to our audience. In the case of data visualization, that means painting pictures with data to make complex ideas, trends, and connections a little clearer.


If we truly are going to make improvements in environmental and economic sustainability, we need to remember that every big number represents a host of personal stories. And the power of story should not be underestimated.

Through photography and mapping and data visualization, Ecotrust Canada brings to life the stories of those affected by some of society’s biggest challenges.

But that’s only half of the equation – we find it’s just as important to share the stories of our successes so they can be applied elsewhere. After all, what’s the point of having a great idea if no one hears about it?

So here’s to more good ideas and great work – we can’t do it without you.


With thanks,

Brenda Kuecks, President