Great Bear Scallops winners of B.C. Sustainability Award

Great Bear Scallops winners of B.C. Sustainability Award

First Nations owned company not just starting a business, but growing an industry

Coastal Shellfish has always placed sustainability at the centre of their business plan, and now the northern-B.C. company can put it on their mantle as winners of the BC Food and Beverage 2020 Sustainability Award for its Great Bear Scallops.

“We’re in a remote corner of the province in Prince Rupert, here in the corner of the Great Bear Rainforest. It’s exciting to be on the edge of a burgeoning industry in shellfish aquaculture … but we never thought the kind of recognition we’d get was ever possible,” Michael Uehara, Coastal Shellfish CEO and president said.

“This is a First Nations — Indigenous-owned business whose mission it is to recreate an economy of inclusion on the coast. This award is a big shot in the arm. We’re quite pleased. We’re thrilled.”

The annual awards gala of the BC Food Processors Association was held online Sept. 24, hosted by Fred Lee with special appearances by BC Minister of Agriculture Lana Popham and Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. The Sustainability Award is given to a company that shows leadership in sustainable practices and contributes to helping the environment.

Great Bear Scallops was recognized, in part, for using a zero-input, non-invasive vertical farming method. The judges also noted harvesting is done only once per week for pre-booked orders, limiting the farm sites’ exposure to harvesting vessels. And because the scallops are sold live (a rarity) they require very little processing.

Suspended shellfish operations, like Coastal Shellfish’s lantern nets submerged on the end of longlines, are universally regarded as the most ecologically friendly at-sea farming method available to food producers. It encourages a diversity of habitat within its footprint because the shellfish don’t require other animals for food, but instead clean the surrounding waters with their filter-feeding nature.

B.C.’s algae-abundant coastline is known for influencing some of the tastiest shellfish in the world.

A burgeoning industry

Coastal Shellfish is one of three companies partially owned by the Great Bear Business Corporation, created by a seven-nation alliance called the Coastal First Nations, to build a conservation-based economy throughout their ancestral territories. About 15 years ago, once shellfish farming was identified as the likely candidate, years of experimentation were spent selecting the right waters, and the right species to grow.

“They were looking for an industry that had growth potential, an industry of the future that was also truly sustainable. In many respects it [the award] confirms their vision that they can accomplish that, because it’s a pretty lofty goal,” Uehara said.

Before the first scallop was sold, substantial manpower was devoted to the labyrinthine bureaucracy of classifying the waters as open for harvest. This certification makes the Great Bear Scallop the only one in B.C. that can be sold live, and one of the very few on the continent, Uehara said.

READ MORE: Indigenous-owned sustainable scallop farm gets licence

The company’s burgeoning success, and the sustainability award, comes just 19 months after receiving their shellfish processing licence. The goal now is to ramp things up in the next three years to six-million scallops harvested annually.

The end result of Coastal Shellfish’s journey from inception to sales is a scallop commanding the highest price in North America, Uehara said, and finding markets around the world, with China taking the biggest bite of 20 per cent.

With their own hatchery and processing facility, the first federally licenced facility in Canada in 15 years, Uehara makes it clear Coastal Shellfish is not about building a company, but growing an industry.

A fishing community

Prince Rupert, with a population of just 12,000, is known more today as the home of Canada’s third largest deep port container terminal, but at its soul, Uehara said, it’s still a fishing community. With wild-catch fisheries in decline, fishing licences consolidated by large corporations and regulations pushing local catches to southern processing facilities, success carries with it a significant emotional purpose.

“This First Nations-owned business is doing its part to maintain that soul of the north, that soul of the Prince Rupert fisheries industry,” Uehara said.

“The number of iconic species of fish that land to the docks of Prince Rupert is just fantastic, but how many of those can be sold here? We’re able to sell our product directly to the people of Prince Rupert. And it matters. I think it matters to everyone here.”

But how does it taste?

Sustainability, success and inclusive economies fall away if there isn’t a great product to prop it up, but in less than two years of commercial operation, the reputation of the Great Bear Scallop is gaining traction with chefs and foodie media.

READ MORE: Wheelhouse Brewing releases new Great Bear Scallop Stout

“I was really happy they won this award— they deserve it,” Broadcaster and food-and-wine writer behind the Good Life Vancouver blog, Cassandra Anderton said. She recently teamed up with chef Karen Dar Woon to share recipes for a cured and a baked scallop featuring Metlakatla’s popular bivalve.

“First of all, these live scallops arrived super fresh,” Anderton said. “The pristine waters where they’re farmed produce this amazing merroir [site-specific flavour profile absorbed from the marine environment] in these super clean and cool waters. We’re talking nice, dense meat with superb flavours. I’ve ordered them again since.”

Locally, Prince Rupert’s Wheelhouse Brewing Co. partnered with Coastal Shellfish to create a briny Great Bear Scallop Stout with a limited batch every St. Patricks Day.

Coastal Shellfish sold their very first scallop to another local establishment, Fukasaku, the first sushi restaurant in B.C. to be 100 per cent certifed by Vancouver Aqarium’s Ocean Wise Program.

Upon recieving his first order, chef Dai Fukasaku told Black Press Media at the time, “It’s probably the freshest scallops ever.”

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

 

Coastal Shellfish crew, Patricia Lewis, left, Dani Robertson, Blake Barton and Barry Vickers showoff a harvest of Great Bear Scallops near Prince Rupert, B.C. After less than two years of commercial operation, the Metlakatla First Nations-owned company won the 2020 BC Food and Beverage Sustainability Award Sept. 24 from the BC Food Processors Association. (Photo supplied by Coastal Shellfish)

Coastal Shellfish crew, Patricia Lewis, left, Dani Robertson, Blake Barton and Barry Vickers showoff a harvest of Great Bear Scallops near Prince Rupert, B.C. After less than two years of commercial operation, the Metlakatla First Nations-owned company won the 2020 BC Food and Beverage Sustainability Award Sept. 24 from the BC Food Processors Association. (Photo supplied by Coastal Shellfish)

Just Posted

Ma Murrays 2021 virtual ceremony screenshot
North Island Gazette wins big at 2021 Ma Murray Newspaper Awards

Zoe Ducklow and Bill McQuarrie both won gold at the online ceremony

Port Hardy council has agreed to cancel Canada Day celebrations in wake of the discovery of the remains of 215 children being found on the grounds of a former residential school. (North Island Gazette file photo)
Council votes to cancel Canada Day celebrations in wake of mass grave sites being found

Coun. Treena Smith made the motion for the chamber to not host Canada Day celebrations this year

Port Hardy Fire Rescue responded to an early morning fire around 3:50 a.m. on Sunday, June 13. Two porta-potties were on fire at the Visitor’s Centre on Hastings Street. Anyone with information is asked to contact the RCMP at 250-949-6335. (Port Hardy Fire Rescue photo)
Firefighters respond to early morning fire near visitor centre in Port Hardy

Two porta-potties were on fire at the Visitor’s Centre on Hastings Street

North Island MLA Michele Babchuk. Photo contributed
COMMENTARY: MLA Michele Babchuk talks the future of forestry

‘These forests are important to every single one of us, myself included’

Dr. Prean Armogam hands over a cheque for $10,000 to Hardy Bay Senior Citizens Society president Rosaline Glynn. The money will be going towards a new roof for the Port Hardy seniors centre. This is the second donation Dr. Armogam has made to the society, giving them $5,000 a little over a year ago. (Tyson Whitney - North Island Gazette)
Doctor donates $10k to Hardy Bay Senior Citizens Society for new roof

This was the second donation Armogam has given to the society

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

(Black Press Media file)
Dirty money: Canadian currency the most germ-filled in the world, survey suggests

Canadian plastic currency was found to contain 209 bacterial cultures

(pixabay file shot)
B.C. ombudsperson labels youth confinement in jail ‘unsafe,’ calls for changes

Review states a maximum of 22 hours for youth, aged 12 from to 17, to be placed in solitary

Eleonore Alamillo-Laberge, 6, reads a book in Ottawa on Monday, June 12, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Parents will need to fight ‘COVID learning slump’ over summer: B.C. literacy experts

Parents who play an active role in educating their children this summer can reverse the slump by nearly 80%, says Janet Mort

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

The B.C. government’s vaccine booking website is busy processing second-dose appointments, with more than 76 per cent of adults having received a first dose. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations stable for Tuesday

108 new confirmed cases, 139 in hospital, 39 in intensive care

Cowichan Tribes man Adrian Sylvester is worried that he was targetted by a trailer hitch thrown from a vehicle. (Facebook photo)
Cowichan Tribes man worried he was target of trailer hitch

Adrian Sylvester says no one has reported a missing hitch after one nearly hit him

Graeme Roberts, who was mayor of Nanaimo from 1984-86, died this month at age 89. (Photo courtesy Nanaimo Community Archives)
City of Nanaimo flags at half-mast as former mayor Graeme Roberts dies at 89

‘Giant-killer’ beat out Frank Ney in mayoral election in 1984

Most Read