Fish Tales: Community-based Storytelling with the Gulf of Georgia Cannery

Last year’s ACAM 390A: Food and the Heritage of Chinese Migrations seminar was conducted virtually, however, that did not prevent community-engaged learning from being a key aspect of the course. As such, students had the opportunity to work with local organizations and pitch their course projects to a wider audience at the ACAM 390A Virtual Community Showcase. One of these student projects, Fish Tales, proposed a community-oriented mode of story-sharing to the Gulf of Georgia Cannery in Richmond’s Steveston area. 

Fish Tales: An Overview

Fish Tales was created by An Xu, Joshua Jamora, Moira Henry and I (Victoria So) to expand avenues of representation at the Gulf of Georgia Cannery by centering a story-gathering campaign around the topic of seafood consumption.

To make the story-sharing process more accessible, the topic connects the Cannery’s content to the personal histories of individuals, and encourages the sharing of stories and experiences of diverse people. By conducting interviews, community members can tell their own stories; and by using video footage to share these stories, audiences are able to listen, connect and/or engage with the stories of fellow community members – all with the aim of increasing community representation through the eyes of its members and building community connections. 

Watch our project pitch at the ACAM 390A Virtual Community Showcase on Youtube

Beyond the Seminar: The Story-gathering Campaign

While the Fish Tales project idea originated from the ACAM 390A seminar, the story-gathering campaign was further developed in the late summer and fall of 2021. Continuing our work with the Gulf of Georgia Cannery and UBC INSTRCC, we conducted 6 interviews with 14 Asian Canadian individuals in the first phase of the campaign, and represented some of the many stories shared on the @gogcannery Instagram page with the hashtag #whatsyourfishtale.

These stories include navigating the “bones, shells and exoskel’s” of seafood, the social experiences and memories of eating seafood, and the cultural heritage and family connections reflected through eating habits. They reveal the times, places, communities and cultures that we come from and encompass a myriad of diverse experiences.

View the Fish Tales posts on Instagram at @gogcannery or #whatsyourfishtale

At first, we were concerned with gathering as many stories as we could in the time that we had, but only in conducting those 6 interviews did we realize how rich and colourful these conversations could be. As much as we wanted to hear from as many people as we could, it became clear that we wanted and needed to give each participant the time they deserved for us to listen as they shared the wealth of their experiences.

Interview after interview, we noticed how these stories added onto one another even when speaking for themselves. In choosing to categorize these stories into overarching themes rather than separate them according to storyteller, we wanted to represent the campaign as a community discussion – a mosaic of stories. Although these stories came from separate interviews, the differing yet overlapping experiences shared by interviewees reaffirm how story-gathering and story-sharing can create community connections and how each person has something unique and valuable to share and contribute.

Watch the promotional video, “What’s your Fish Wish,” on Instagram


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Gulf of Georgia Cannery (@gogcannery)

These ‘Fish Tales’ show families and friends connecting over shared memories, similar habits or preferences, and things they didn’t previously know about one another. Audiences engaging with the campaign have also shared their own unique experiences – with strangers connecting over a simple yet boundless topic of seafood consumption. 

Ultimately, the Fish Tales project shows that personal stories matter – whether that is to bring people together, validate unique cultural backgrounds and identities, or represent the diversity of experiences in our community. It shows the value in asking others to share, in allowing ourselves to listen, and in taking the time to connect with others.

What’s Next?

We’re pleased to share that the Fish Tales project is now featured on the Gulf of Georgia Cannery’s Collections page. Additionally, the team is currently working on piloting workshops to expand on the story-gathering campaign so more people can share and gather stories. This project does not end here, and we look forward to sharing project updates as Fish Tales at the Gulf of Georgia Cannery evolves. 

Stay tuned for updates on Fish Tales by following @gogcannery or #whatsyourfishtale on Instagram, or visit the Gulf of Georgia Cannery’s website


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Written by Victoria So