Jessica Plumb: Safe Passage in the Salish Sea

Jessica Plumb: Safe Passage in the Salish Sea

About the Project

Jessica Plumb's Safe Passage in the Salish Sea video is part of a larger campaign by the Friends of the San Juans (FSJ) to develop a new sensitive area designation, a “Particularly Sensitive Sea Area” (PSSA), through the International Maritime Organization, which would begin to limit the shipping of fossil fuels and mitigate potential oil spills and other disasters in the Salish Sea.

The Salish Sea is an inland waterway that spans the American and Canadian waters of the Pacific Northwest. Explosive demand to export tar sands and other fossil fuels from the interior of both countries has led to an unprecedented number of proposals to vastly increase shipping of fossil fuels through these fragile inland waterways. The goal of a PSSA designation is to reduce this risk. The effort to protect this ecologically and culturally rich waterway and to designate it as the world’s 15th PSSA is led by American non-profit, FSJ. The challenge FSJ is faced with, is to win over hearts and minds of regional stakeholders and decision-makers in coming months. While there is clear scientific and cultural evidence supporting the designation, the campaign needs strong storytelling to build grassroots support.

CMG met Jessica through an Action Grant pitch session at the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival. Her project was one of eight chosen to pitch and was selected as one of three winners. CMG awarded Safe Passage in the Salish Sea a $5,000 matching grant which will cover necessary production and distribution costs. The campaign will consist of one 5-minute film and will urge important stakeholders to endorse securing the PSSA nomination.

According to Jessica, "This [video] will also be vital for both education and outreach with the general population that will be affected if an oil spill were to occur. Education on what a Salish Sea PSSA is and why it is needed is important so that community members are comfortable with it and become ambassadors."

Jessica plans to showcase Safe Passage in the Salish Sea at the Pacific Northwest Indigenous Film festival on Lopez Island, USA, The Salish Sea Conference in Vancouver, Canada, as well as at presentations to communities and decision makers during the PSSA campaign throughout 2016. In addition, the video will be distributed and promoted through social media and shared through FSJ’s many partner organizations in the Northwest. The primary impact measurement will be pledges of support and public endorsements for a Salish Sea PSSA nomination, based on the groups identified in FSJ’s action plan. Secondary measurement will be based on presentation attendance and petition signatures from the general public. FSJ will create a petition that viewers can sign if they support the nomination, to be used at events such as the Indigenous Film festival and Salish Sea Conference. The petition is a secondary step, designed to help bring public pressure on elected officials.

Distribution of the video began in February of 2016. 

About the Grantee

Jessica is a filmmaker focused on the relationship between people and the places they call home. Before producing the award-winning feature documentary, Return of the River, Plumb’s short films, best described as video poetry, screened in theaters and galleries throughout the United States and internationally. Plumb directs a video production company, Plumb Productions, producing educational and promotional videos for clients. She holds a B.A. from Yale University and an interdisciplinary M.F.A. from Goddard College, and studied documentary film at 911 Media in Seattle and the New School University in New York. She moved to the Olympic Peninsula fifteen years ago, after working in Boston and Beijing.

Project Updates and Milestones

Safe Passage in the Salish Sea was released in March and the results of it's impact are already strong. Since the film went live there's been real progress on both distribution goals defined by the project:

  • building public awareness and commitment
  • reaching out to key stakeholders on both sides of the border

On the public front, the film was tied to a petition to designate the Salish Sea as a "Particularly Sensitive Sea Area" (PSSA) and promoted heavily through social media. "PSSA" is a new term for most people, and the film was designed to offer context for this proposal. To date, the petition to designate the Salish Sea as a PSSA has garnered over 1,500 signatures, and it will be widely promoted at the upcoming Salish Sea conference.

Additionally, some of the film's most effective work has been behind the scenes with key stakeholders - it has been viewed by Sectretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and both Washington senators before their meeting between President Obama & Prime Minister Trudeau. The Washington Congressional Delegation has been working to keep the PSSA proposal for the Salish Sea on the agenda between the US & Canada.

Equally important, according to Friends of the San Juans Executive Director Stephanie Buffum, the participation of well-respected First Nations and tribal voices in the film has built credibility for the project in "Indian country", which is critical to the success of the Salish Sea effort. The BC Assembly of First Nations passed a resolution unanimously in support of the measure, a major success for the project.  After this success in Canada, Stephanie presented the PSSA proposal to American counterparts at the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, at the lower Elwha Heritage Center - an apt location for the PSSA proposal, as the gateway to the Straits and site of the successful dam removal on the Elwha River.  There is still a lot of work to be done in explaining what a PSSA entails. There is an inaccurate perception among some stakeholders that it is a marine sanctuary, which could restrict fishing. This is not the case; a PSSA designation regulates large shipping vessels only, under the International Maritime Association.

What's next? Stephanie writes, "We're working to get signatures on a joint letter of support for PSSA nomination from Canadian First Nations Grand Chief Perry Bellegarde, United States American Indian Congress President Brian Cladoosby, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and American President Barak Obama." Meanwhile, the film continues to circulate at numerous regional venues, most recently at a youth gathering at the Lummi Nation.  Filmmaker Jessica Plumb plans to complete a revised cut of the film, with small changes & updates, to submit to regional film festivals in the Salish Sea region this summer and fall to help keep the story on the radar screen. Currently, team members from the Safe Passage in the Salish Sea project are en route to Canada for the cross-border Salish Sea conference, an important opportunity for the project. The conference, held every other year, brings scientists and activists together from both sides of the US / Canadian border.

Update (early October):

A slightly expanded version of Safe Passage in the Salish Sea (7.5 minutes) has been accepted to two film festivals this fall that resonate deeply with the topic. It will play at the Social Justice Film Festival, in Seattle on October 17th, 2016. The film was also accepted to the prestigious BLUE Ocean film festival, and Jessica is currently waiting to hear if the film is a finalist, which determines screening opportunities. These are both great forums to keep Salish Sea issues before an engaged public!  Jessica has continued to update the film in recent months, as tribes continue to stand up to fossil fuel projects around the country and in the Pacific Northwest.

Watch Safe Passage in the Salish Sea below! 

Jessica Plumb / Safe Passage in the Salish Sea