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

Removal of old Elk Falls parking lots underway

Already replaced by the new access to the suspension bridge

High-profile Port Alberni murders are the centre of new true crime book

Retired journalist Shayne Morrow pairs historic murders with the science that solved them

Canadiana complete when Murray McLauchlan’s in the house

Legendary singer/songwriter brings his folksy talents to the McPherson on June 13

COLUMN: Motoring along sure to be different with changes to cars, infrastructure

Younger generation seems intent on creating a more efficient planet

Vancouver Islander pens Mourning Has Broken following death of her daughter

Book by radio host Erin Davis gives advice to others struggling with grief

Police release photos of suspect in daytime sex assault at Vancouver woman’s home

A young woman, in hers 20s, was followed home by the man, before he violently attacked her inside

So, they found ‘Dave from Vancouver Island’

Dave Tryon, now 72, will reunite with long-ago travelling friends in Monterey, Calif.

Raptors beat Bucks 100-94 to advance to franchise’s first-ever NBA Finals

Leonard has 27 points, 17 boards to lead Toronto past Milwaukee

Third person charged in death of B.C. teen Bhavkiran Dhesi

Inderdeep Kaur Deo facing charge of accessory after the fact to murder

Kamloops girl, 9, recovering from carbon monoxide poisoning now out of ICU

Her mother who was sleeping in the same tent with her did not survive

‘I think he’s still alive’: B.C. mom pleads for help finding son last seen a month ago

Family offering $5,000 reward for information leading to the safe return of Tim Delahaye

New poll suggests one-third don’t want politicians to wear religious symbols

Local politicians shouldn’t be allowed to wear hijabs, crucifixes or turbans on the job, survey suggests

Raptors fans far from home adjust plans to watch pivotal playoff game

Raptors currently lead the playoff series 3-2, and a win Saturday would vault them into NBA finals

PHOTOS: First responders in Fernie rescue baby owl who fell from nest

The baby owl’s inability to fly back to its nest prompted a rescue by first responders

Most Read