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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

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

Email news@ahobserver.com
LETTER: No adequate response to mining issue

The Friends of Agassiz and Harrison Hot Springs pen an open letter

Signs at a new COVID-19 testing and collection centre at 14577 66th Ave. in Surrey. It was relocated from an urgent primary care centre near Surrey Memorial Hospital. This new centre allows for up to 800 tests per day, which is 550 more than the previous centre, according to Fraser Health. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
More than 200 new COVID-19 cases linked to Fraser Health region: Dr. Henry

Provincial health officer appeals to people to keep gatherings small

Chilliwack-Kent 2020 provincial election candidates, clockwise from bottom left, Kelli Paddon (NDP), Eli Gagne (Libertarian), Jeff Hammersmark (Green), Jason Lum (Independent), and Laurie Throness, who began the campaign as a BC Liberal but left the party on Oct. 15. (Submitted)
OPINION: Every vote counts with election uncertainty in Chilliwack and Chilliwack-Kent

For the first time in a long time there could be very close races in both local ridings

Jodie Fedun said her brother Jarrett Whitford hasn’t been heard from since early September, and his bank card was last used in Hope. (Submitted/Facebook photo)
Police spot missing Alberta man on video, in Hope

Family have not heard from Jarrett Whitford, 31, since early September

Someone needs a manicure? The She Devil pursues Jvck Wilde in a cinematic music video about struggling with mental illness. (Submitted photo)
Chilliwack hip-hop artist Jvck Wilde produces She Devil music video

Dark, chilling and very cinematic, Wilde produces a gripping video on a tight budget

Vancouver police reactivated the search for Jordan Naterer Thursday Oct. 22. Photo courtesy of VPD.
Mom of missing Manning Park hiker believes her son is waiting to come home

‘He’s going to come out of a helicopter and say ‘what took you so long?”

Environment Minister George Heyman, Premier John Horgan and Energy Minister Michelle Mungall announce that B.C. Hydro is proceeding with construction of the Site C dam, Dec. 11, 2017. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
Site C actions, costs won’t be known until after B.C. election, Horgan says

Peace River diverted for construction of reinforced dam base

One of the squirrels who ended up having their tails amputated after getting them stuck together with tree sap. (Facebook/Wild ARC)
Squirrels recovering from tail amputation after sap situation near Victoria

BC SPCA Wild ARC says squirrels will be released back into wild, fifth sibling was euthanized

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The Anonymous YVR is an Instagram page that reviews restaurants and other establishments around B.C. based on how well they adhere to COVID-19 rules. (Instagram)
Anonymous Instagram page reviews COVID-19 safety measures at B.C. businesses

There are a number of public health orders various types of establishments must follow to slow virus’s spread

Most Read