Jordan Belveal fishing for rockfish in 2018. (Chelsey Ellis)

Jordan Belveal fishing for rockfish in 2018. (Chelsey Ellis)

Longtime Vancouver Island fishing family hooks into local market over wholesale

Locally caught fish are scarce in fishing towns, an irony one Sointula family is working to change

The lingcod is almost as tall as the boy, a fifth-generation fisherman-in-training on B.C.’s coast.

Dad will help haul in the catch, measure and bonk it, clip the gills and keep it chilled with the other fish until they offload at the dock. This squid-eating lingcod will go directly to a local who’s already paid a deposit and is waiting, filet knife ready.

It’s a new way of doing business for Jordan Belveal, a fourth-generation fisherman.

Instead of selling to wholesalers, who almost always export the catch, Belveal and his family are marketing their catch directly to consumers in a new community supported fishery venture called Island Wild Seafoods.

It could be an answer to the perpetual, “Why can’t I buy fresh, local fish?” question, repeated in fishing towns all over Vancouver Island.

READ MORE: Controversial Fraser River Chinook sports fishing restrictions back on interim basis

The Belveal family, originally from Sointula who now live in Nanaimo, have been fishing for five generations. Captain Grandpa — a.k.a. Adrian Belveal — of the third generation, taught his three sons to fish, and recently returned from a halibut trip with two of his grandchildren, who have both taken up the rod.

The allure of fishing remains the same for Jordan — one of Captain Grandpa’s sons — as he introduces his young son to the reels, but the business model is evolving.

“So many people approach us looking to buy seafood, complaining that they just can’t find halibut, or lingcod or spot prawns or any of the fish we have on the coast, because it just gets exported instantly,” Belveal said.

He estimates 90 per cent of local fish is exported, and 80 per cent of the seafood British Columbians consume is imported. Some large ships spend months fishing off the coast, freezing and packing fish on board, delivering directly to overseas markets without ever touching land.

With each inquiry of where to buy fresh fish, the Belveals thought more about selling it direct. This year, they took the plunge. International markets are in a tailspin because of COVID-19, so it seemed like a perfect time to refocus local.

“We created what’s called a community-supported fishery, similar to community-supported agriculture. We created a following almost overnight. It’s been incredible the community support,” Belveal said.

Members pay a deposit at the beginning of the fishing season, and get a share of the catch each time Belveal’s boat comes in. Some pick up at the dock, and he also does home delivery.

So far they have dedicated one boat to the venture, and are already selling the majority of its fish to members. Their goal is to market all their fish independently by next year.

“It’s a lot more rewarding to do, because we’re trying to do smaller trips that have higher quality. So we’re not catching as much per trip, but we’re we’re not selling to a middleman, so it’s a better deal for us and it’s a better deal for the consumers. And the fish they’re getting is way better quality than what they can get at the grocery store.”

READ MORE: Salmon babies in safe haven in north Vancouver Island before hitting open ocean

Island Wild Seafoods is not the first family-owned fishing company to make this change.

Skipper Otto started direct sales in 2008 to support one fisherman, Otto Strobel, who is now retired. In its 12 years, Skipper Otto has grown to include 19 independent fishermen and families, with pick-up locations across western Canada and Ontario. Another outfit, Michelle Rose, sells direct to members in Sidney and Cowichan Bay.

With consumer-supported fisheries, fishermen know where their catch ends up and consumers can honestly trace where their fish came from — and sometimes get bonus pictures of the fishing trip.

It also provides commercial licence owners the opportunity to make a living apart from global markets.

Do you have something to add to this story or something else we should report on? Email: zoe.ducklow@blackpress.ca


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

fishing

Just Posted

Nanaimo Airport. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo Airport coping with low passenger counts, uncertain recovery

Airport CEO Dave Devana says it will take years to return to pre-pandemic passenger levels

Sophia Seward-Good and Aunalee Boyd-Good of Nanaimo’s Ay Lelum – The Good House of Design are showcasing their latest collection Yuxwule’ Sul’sul’tun – Eagle Spindle Whorl at Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto. (Photo courtesy Helena Lines)
Nanaimo’s Ay Lelum makes Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto debut

Clothing design company showing new collection, Yuxwule’ Sul’sul’tun – Eagle Spindle Whorl

Gracie couldn’t stop nursing from her previous owner’s goats which was problematic given the goats were trying to be dried out to breed. Gracie now lives at A Home for Hooves. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)
Cowichan animal sanctuary gets international accreditation

A Home for Hooves farm sanctuary accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries

Nurse Doreen Littlejohn takes a longterm approach in her outreach work with homelessness in Parksville Qualicum Beach, but says more needs to be done now. (Auren Ruvinsky photo)
‘Women face a much different experience on the street’

Vancouver Island nurse says community needs to be part of solution to homelessness

The Sepura is a garbage disposal system that separates solids from liquids and allows for stink and hassle-free composting. (Courtesy of Anvy Technologies)
Goodbye garburator, this Victoria company has a clean composting solution

Sepura has made Time Magazine’s ‘100 Best Inventions of 2020’ for its hassle-free functioning

(Dave Landine/Facebook)
VIDEO: Dashcam captures head-on crash between snowplow and truck on northern B.C. highway

Driver posted to social media that he walked away largely unscathed

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Top doctor urges Canadians to limit gatherings as ‘deeply concerning’ outbreaks continue

Canada’s active cases currently stand at 63,835, compared to 53,907 a week prior

A Canadian Pacific freight train travels around Morant’s Curve near Lake Louise, Alta., on Monday, Dec. 1, 2014. A study looking at 646 wildlife deaths along the railway tracks in Banff and Yoho national parks in Alberta and British Columbia has found that train speed is one of the biggest factors. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Study finds train speed a top factor in wildlife deaths in Banff, Yoho national parks

Research concludes effective mitigation could address train speed and ability of wildlife to see trains

A airport worker is pictured at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C. Wednesday, March 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canada extends COVID restrictions for non-U.S. travellers until Jan. 21 amid second wave

This ban is separate from the one restricting non-essential U.S. travel

A man walks by a COVID-19 test pod at the Vancouver airport in this undated handout photo. A study has launched to investigate the safest and most efficient way to rapidly test for COVID-19 in people taking off from the Vancouver airport. The airport authority says the study that got underway Friday at WestJet’s domestic check-in area is the first of its kind in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Vancouver Airport Authority *MANDATORY CREDIT*
COVID-19 rapid test study launches at Vancouver airport for departing passengers

Airport authority says that a positive rapid test result does not constitute a medical diagnosis for COVID-19

The property at 113 and 161 Island Highway is currently being dismantled as the developer attempts to salvage ‘usable’ lumber for their development application to the City of Parksville. (Mandy Moraes photo)
Development application delayed for high-profile Parksville property

Council refers application to staff for further improvements

Work is underway to bring a Nordic-themed Christmas display to Uptown Shopping Centre. (Black Press Media file photo)
Outdoor skating rink, road mural among holiday festivities at Saanich mall

Santa dons a clear mask for photos at Uptown this winter

Peninsula Panthers' owner and general manager Pete Zubersky questions the decision-making process leading to the suspension of play in the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League (VIJHL). (Black Press Media File)
Peninsula Panthers’ owner questions process behind suspension of Junior B hockey action

Pete Zubersky does not understand actions of provincial body administering amateur sports

Most Read