Coastal hatchery manager Provan Crump stands amidst tanks with different strands of house-grown algae in their greenhouse. The algae “microbrewery” is the “heart of the operation,” he says. (Karissa Gall/The Northern View)

Indigenous-owned sustainable scallop farm gets licence

Prince Rupert-based Coastal Shellfish scallops will be sold live in B.C.

A shellfish aquaculture company headquartered in Prince Rupert hopes to have 15 million farmed scallops in the ocean this year.

“That’s one, five million,” Provan Crump confirmed over the noise of pumps and running water at the hatchery on Wednesday, Feb. 27.

Crump is the hatchery manager of the First Nations-owned Coastal Shellfish company. Originally from Australia, he worked in commercial oyster hatcheries in Hawaii before coming to Coastal.

Coastal hatchery manager Provan Crump shines a light on shellfish eggs as small as grains of sand in one of their 25,000-litre tanks. (Karissa Gall/The Northern View)

“Right now there are about 4.5 to 5 million scallops in the water grown over the last five or so years,” he said. But they are spawning more.

They have nine, 25,000-litre tanks that hold thousands and thousands of eggs as small as grains of sand.

The eggs grow with as little bacteria as possible (Crump drops the tanks through tight screens every few days to keep water quality high) and are fed house-grown algae for 21 days until they are ready to metamorphosize into sedentary animals.

Adult-size Great Bear scallops at the Coastal Shellfish hatchery. (Karissa Gall/The Northern View)

When they’re strong enough to attach onto a kelp-like material, they enter into the nursery, grow, are graded and either go out to an ocean farm site where they filter feed in 12-layer, circular longline nets, or they’re kept protected in saltwater ponds for further rearing.

READ MORE: Indigenous stewards of the land, river and sea

With their pond progeny multiplying, it’s good timing that Coastal received its shellfish processing licence this week. Although, CEO Michael Uehara said it could have come in a bit sooner.

“There’s a labyrinth of regulatory stew that’s really difficult to get through,” Uehara told the Northern View. “I think this is the first licensed shellfish plant in 13 years or something.”

He said they started looking at the licence about five years ago, but the initiative died due to internal focus on farm stocks and a lack of external supports for the regulatory process.

Coastal hatchery manager Provan Crump (left) and CEO Michael Uehara peer into their saltwater ponds — their favourite place to view their progeny. (Karissa Gall/The Northern View)

“Very few people in Canada know how to do a processing licence for shellfish, so if you call [the Canadian Food Inspection Agency] … they’ll tell you to get a consultant,” Uehara said.

“There are a couple [consultants] in Canada that are fairly overtaxed, so in the end you have to devote almost a full-time person to study this on quite a high level to get it done.

“I would rather it be the last day of taxes at 4 ‘o clock in the afternoon and I had forgotten to file last year’s taxes than go through this with a year-and-a-half,” he said.

However, Uehara added it’s important to remember what the process is for: ensuring the health of Canadians and compliance with international regulations.

“Is it a daunting task? It certainly is,” he said. “Should it be less daunting? I don’t know.

“Sometimes these things do exist to ensure the well-being of people.”

READ MORE: Local scallops featured in Fukasaku chef’s chowdown chowder

After Coastal acquired its processing license, Fukasaku of Prince Rupert was the first client to buy live adult scallops from them.

“For us to be their first official local buyer, it means a lot to us and I’m so honoured and humbled,” said chef Dai Fukasaku. “I just got my first delivery [Tuesday] and the great thing about it is it was harvested [Monday], so it’s probably the freshest scallops ever.”

Going forward all of the Great Bear brand scallops will either be sold live in B.C. or fresh shucked on the west coast of North America, according to Uehara.

After they’re grown and graded, Coastal’s Great Bear brand scallops go out to an ocean farm site where they filter feed in 12-layer, circular long line nets. (Karissa Gall/The Northern View)

He said they’re still fleshing out their distribution method for Prince Rupert, but they will open sales to local markets in the next month or so.

The new licence and more markets also mean more jobs.

Coastal currently has about 40 employees, 75 per cent of whom are First Nations.

Now that they’re doing their own processing, Uehara said they’re going to create more jobs “that involve a lot more technological competence.”

Coastal’s broodstock system adds to the sustainability of the operation. Hatchery manager Provan Crump says they need to cool the water where their broodstock live, and with this machine, the heat produced by the cooling is captured and used to warm water where larval rearing takes place. (Karissa Gall/The Northern View)

“There are not a lot of fisheries that are expanding and this one is,” he said. “Along with that expansion I think is also the creation of jobs that are jobs of the future in this industry and they will be jobs that require a pretty high component of technical abilities.”

Uehara said they expect to be able to offer competitive wages out of the profitability of their product.

“Scallops are one of the highest-valued seafoods you can have,” he said, adding that their farm gate price will be somewhere between $1.70 and $1.90 per scallop.

Currently Coastal’s most productive ocean site, an experimental Metlakatla site from about 15 years ago, is a two-and-a-half-hour boat ride away. “It ends up being about $350,000 a year just to access that site,” says CEO Michael Uehara. Currently Coastal is angling to acquire a new site just 2 km from the hatchery. (Karissa Gall/The Northern View)

Ultimately, the proximity of future sites and the arc of the industry will factor into just how many jobs Coastal creates.

“As things stand right now we’re comfortable being the vertically-integrated organization that grows this industry,” he said. “But in 10 years this may evolve into a hatchery producing seed for growers, it could evolve into a processing facility for people who are farming their product and bringing it in.

“As we are a First Nations-owned industry, our shareholders are anxious to build this company, but they have a long-term view of growing an industry,” he added.

“The thing about scallop aquaculture or shellfish aquaculture is it’s environmentally restorative, and I think this is about restoring an economy of inclusion for First Nations on the North Coast, and also about restoring the oceans in which it happens.”



karissa.gall@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Enbridge plans to replace its 150 Mile House compressor station

Clearing for the new station is anticipated to begin mid-November

Cariboo Hobby Con 2019 looking for vendor submissions

Sign up now to share your passion with all of Williams Lake at the end of November

The more things change, the more they stay the same following federal election

The way people voted this year shows how diverse our opinions on politics really are

VIDEO: Tsilhqot’in Nation celebrates new solar farm west of Williams Lake

Tsilhqot’in Solar Farm is 100 per cent owned and operated by the nation

Raptors Bling: NBA champions receive their rings in pre-game ceremony

There are over 650 diamonds — at a weight of 14 carats — in the 14-karat yellow gold ring

100-pound pumpkin stolen a second time from B.C. business

According to security footage, a man and woman took the pumpkin on Oct. 20 at 8:20 p.m.

Greta Thunberg declines invitation to Victoria due to time, not ferry emissions

Thunberg confirmed that she will be joining a climate strike at the Vancouver Art Gallery on Friday

‘Havoc and chaos:’ Alberta separatist group gains support as Liberals re-elected

The idea is getting interest from people in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and parts of British Columbia

Feds finally decriminalizing drugs possible – but it’s up to Jagmeet Singh, expert says

National pharmacare was one of Singh’s most highly-touted platform policies

In the news: Wexit, Brexit and Trump sparks outrage

There’s been a surge of support for an Alberta separatist group

Horvat’s hat trick lifts Canucks to 5-2 win over Red Wings

First career three-goal game for Vancouver captain

Saanich Gulf-Islands’s Elizabeth May coy about leadership plans

The federal Green party leader talks possibility of running as MP without being leader

Most Read