Posts by Wild Salmon Cove

Covid-19 Supply Chain Safety Tips

I see it every day.

It’s worrisome,
but expected.

One of the most challenging parts of a journey for almost everyone in almost every venture, is the last mile, whether it’s about getting your fish to market fresh, or avoiding being infected with Covid-19.

Most of us do great out of the gate, but half-way through a long race many let down their guard, and all their hard work hits the wall with a splat!

Pacing yourself and paying careful attention to details defines winners, whether it is a seafood supply chain or Covid-19.

Regarding coronavirus, the general public has been thrown even further off balance because last month most of us thought this pesky virus would blow through in a couple of weeks and we’d all be back to normal in no time. We know now that two months plus is more realistic, and obviously more if we get hit like Italy. Bulldozing your way through this global pandemic is foolhardy and irresponsible.

Covid-19 is a life changer for all of us young and old, personally and in business.

Natural selection is going viral at warp speed.

It’s not the fittest who will survive though, it’s the one who is the most flexible and who can react the fastest to a constantly changing scenario. In the case of fisheries, it’s all about finding better solutions for overfishing and ocean pollution.

In the case of Covid-19 it’s about ramping up our health care infrastructure so it can handle overload in case we hit critical mass – we need more “last mile” ventilators to handle the burst.

Being flexible is of paramount importance.

Funny thing about viruses, you can do one hundred things right, but one small mistake can immediately place you at ground zero. There are no do-overs and “let’s try it again” scenarios that will UN-infect you.

Most of us are conscientious and following advice from scientists and political leaders. Unfortunately, there is a lot of info floating around making it hard to identify what is true, and what might be “deadly myth” masquerading as common sense.

For example, most people still don’t understand that the real danger is not that you touched the Covid-19 virus with your hand. It’s that you transferred the virus from your hand to an open part of your body, like your eyes, nose, or mouth.

Touching Covid-19 won’t harm you directly unless you have an open wound.

The last metaphoric mile to your nose however, is a different story.

If you’re curious about who is confused about Covid-19, all you have to do is look at the COMMENT sections in news media. People ask questions that by now everyone should know. For example, many still compare Covid-19 to measles. Granted, they are both viruses and close in appearance, but only until you get to the last mile. The measles virus is smaller physically than Covid-19, but both viruses when coughed or sneezed float in the air, albeit for different lengths of time. Air suspension means that when you step into an elevator, if someone who is Covid-19 positive sneezed in that confined space a few minutes earlier, the virus could still be floating in the air you breath as you ride to your floor. It’s even possible that a person’s regular breathing, without a cough or sneeze, could infect you. Too many people are myopically focused on not touching elevator buttons with your finger, which is a good advice of course, but we also need to be concerned about what we breathe.

Confined spaces are one reason it’s dangerous to fly.

The measles virus is relatively small compared to Covid-19 that is made up of larger drops of vapor, or worse, mucus that spews out even when you talk normally. It can land within a meter or two radius. Covid-19 can live outside the body for hours or even days depending on the surface and ambient temperature. Fecal matter carries the greatest risk. Washroom taps and door handles at home or in public areas are serious danger zones.

The overarching challenge is that scientists still argue about how long measles and Covid-19 float in the air. Measles is a smaller airborne mass, consequently, it floats longer, up to half an hour on average, plus, because it is so small it more easily sticks to clothes. Cross-contamination is a bit different between the two viruses, but when you’re talking about a potentially fatal illness, are you going to argue whether the virus was airborne for ten minutes, or for half an hour? You have no idea if the last person who exited the elevator one minute before you coughed into the air that you’re now inhaling. You did everything great for the last two weeks, but at the last mile, you lose. What floor sir?

If you’re able, it’s safer to take the stairs simply because it has considerably more air volume, but again it depends on you or your stairwell. That’s where common sense comes into play. There often is no perfectly right answer. Lowering your odds is your best bet, but nothing is guaranteed.
Here’s another example; You obey all the rules that scientists and doctors are promoting, and you only go to the grocers when you truly need something … not because you’re out of ice cream. You shop carefully at off-peak times, wipe the handle of your shopping cart or basket with alcohol-based sanitizer, wear and use gloves properly, you don’t over-handle products, especially fruits and vegetables, you keep your distance from other shoppers, and you breathe a huge sigh of relief when you get home.
Relieved, you start to unpack your groceries in your kitchen, proud of yourself that you traversed without incident the risky trip to the market, but as you’re putting your groceries away you realize that the little reusable veggie bag you placed your hand-picked tomatoes in, is now sitting on your counter. Less than twenty minutes earlier, the bag was sitting in a well-used shopping basket and then on the belt for the cashier.

Not only do you not know how many people actually handled your tomatoes – customers or staff, you don’t know if any of these people, who might have been infected, coughed on, or touched the cashier’s belt where thousands of shoppers converge. Not everyone buys tomatoes, but almost everyone checks out, so how careful you are in this high traffic area is critical.

If your food containers, bags or boxes, jars, or egg cartons rested on the cashier’s belt it would be risky to place it on your kitchen counter where you prepare food.

Food doesn’t normally carry viruses, but the bag could be contaminated as well as the box it came in.

Unlike birthday presents, effort counts for nothing – zero, zip, nada. It’s all about being effective, so err on the side of caution and pay careful attention to the little details all along the supply chain.

Here’s one more tip, if you wear glasses, make sure they fit snug so you don’t have to touch your face a hundred times a day to push them back up on your nose. Oh yeah, wash your eye glasses daily too, along with your phone, credit cards and cash.

It’s the last mile, or millimeter that will kill you.

Business as Un-Usual

It doesn’t matter if you’re pushing or pulling the leading edge, being 1st is still often the most enviable position even when waging war against a deadly virus.

Being 1st is important, but being right is critical too.

In business, being first with the right solution, or at least “close to the right” solution puts you in a league with companies like Amazon, Microsoft, and Apple.

That truism has never been so significant as it is now, as “we” the global collective, battle coronavirus – Covid-19.

Being 1st in business or virus does two basic things;

1/ It sets a precedent and establishes
early crowd/market control.

2/ It makes you look smart and helps you survive.

Political pandemic posturing has the PR perception protocol painted all over it!

Perception is often nine tenths of the law, and experienced leaders know it. You have to win, or at least look like you’re winning each step along the way.

On March 18, 2020, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced he would close the Canada/US border to all traffic except commercial flow. He made that drastic and difficult decision because our friends in the US now hold risk considerably greater than Canada’s, although that could change at any moment  and for unexplained reasons. So far though, Canada has moved far beyond the effort the USA is exhibiting.  

Here’s how it breaks down today, from WorldOMeters.Info;

The USA has 11,355 Total Cases, Canada has 800. The USA has had 171 Deaths, Canada, 10. In the USA Total cases per million population is 34, in Canada 21. USA population is 327 million, Canada, 38 million.

Not that anyone is counting except Canadians and President Trump … Canada is obviously protecting its citizens better than the USA, which means our neighbors next door are a significant risk. Statistically, it’s more dangerous to be in the presence of a US citizen than it is a Canadian, and that fact is important when you share such an open-style border.

The USA has always been a welcomed and trusted friend to Canadians, but of late, The Donald has jeopardized a relationship that, for the most part in the past has been extraordinarily great. Today however, not so great.

We’ll still gladly share a drink with Americans at “Happy Hour” but when it comes down to life and death, we’re calling out our friends south of the border. Please stay on your side of the table until you have your house in order. Also, please tell Elon Musk that his government’s rules apply to him too. Musk has been forced to shut his factory down by the local sheriff. Musk claimed that building cars is an essential service. Turns out, it’s not. Who knew?

Canada no longer trusts that the USA is making the right decisions to protect its citizens under Trump leadership, so we’ve had to distance ourselves for the safety of Canadian residents.

As you can see by the numbers above, compared to the USA, Canada and it’s political leaders have done the right things at the right time. We’ve protected our citizens the best way possible considering these dangerous times, while the US has fumbled and put us all at heightened risk.

No one wants to repeat the tragic mistakes made by Italy. Consequently, watching the Americans stumble is puzzling in the face of the large volume of information provided by WHO – the World Health Organization.

Canadians love you guys below the 49th, but we need you to keep your distance because you’re not operating on compassion. Instead, you’re playing a short game of greed when the entire world needs a long view of survival.

The only way we are going to flatten the global pandemic growth curve is by all working together.

If you cheat, you’ll get caught and die, and increase the risk of infecting us all. Canadians are historically NICE, but don’t mistake our heightened sense of humanity for stupidity.

It is Canada who wanted the U.S. border closed, so our prime minister closed it.

Oddly, being first, also means that if it happens, you want to be the first individual in your community to contract an active case of Covid-19 because you’ll be first in line for scarce ventilators that will very likely be necessary for your survival. It also means you’ll have a bed in a hospital and you won’t have to suffer and maybe even die at home, alone. It’s where people who cheat the system end up regardless of their personal wealth, except of course for the obscenely wealthy who already own a respirator for each person in their family – it’s the modern day BOMB SHELTER. Just for the record, your respirator would also be more effective if it were attached to a hospital, but that’s a minor hurdle when you’re wealthy, and especially if the wing carries your family name.

Being first often means you’ll have the best chance of survival whether it’s a virus or business.

On the Canadian fisheries side, being first to embrace the transition of open-net pens inland and out of the ocean means you will have the best access to funds, leadership, and opportunity. It means you will play a greater role in establishing the long term rules of engagement and competition.

Being second means you’ll have to follow the rules established by your competitor.

Being second also means you won’t get the ventilator, and that your risk of dying increases exponentially.

Being second means that the guy in first place, has the ear of the government, and being on the inside gives them overwhelming leverage to enact new legislation and to capitalize on new ways of thinking ahead of the crowd. Smart companies know this, the rest, not so much.

Effectively managing the crowd in business and politics means you have influence over a group that is “collectively dumb”, but individually, very smart. The collective dumb panic-buy and horde toilet paper, the smart manage their priorities responsibly and make decision based on what is good for the team. Smart players have a strong and often influential voice through social media. This ain’t Kansas Dorothy and not the old news media days where mainstream news irresponsibly reported whatever worked for their advertisers. Twitter and such levels the playing field in real time.

Life is changing exponentially at the frantic speed of a mutating virus – look to Italy where 475 recently died in one single day. 

Although technology now makes things possible that we never even dreamed of a few years ago, it turns out that INTUITION is still the best indicator of whether or not you will follow the advice of health professionals. Psychologists report that the higher your sense of intuition, which is tied directly to empathy, the more likely you are to manage Covid-19 responsibly.

Technology makes it possible to communicate with the crowd efficiently so that we can isolate ourselves from a new breed of virus, a novel virus that kills without prejudice.

Technology also makes it possible to mimic an ocean-like environment in a land-based RAS IMTA facility.

In all of history, humanity has never been able to do either of these things, and for different reasons, it’s scary. Change is always daunting because it’s predicated on the unknown, and the unknown carries risk.

A quote, often mistakenly attributed directly to Charles Darwin is not about physical strength as many erroneously believe. It’s reflective of how one-celled creatures proliferate … “It is not the strongest that survive, or the most intelligent, but the one with the greatest capacity for change.” 

The more that a virus adapts, the faster it will grow, and so far Covid-19 meets all these markers.

Consequently, Canadians also need to adapt to survive.

It’s not about being strong. It’s about being flexible, and fast.

Canada does a good job, but we still do not test enough for Covid-19. The rate we do however is increasing rapidly. Without testing we have no idea who is a carrier. It’s like playing Whack-A-Mole in the dark.

Prime Minister Trudeau announced an $82 billion dollar aid package that covers a wide variety of people and companies. If anyone at this stage, continues to expend energy in an effort to undermine our political leaders, your names and companies are duly noted. In order to move quickly we need cooperation from everyone – even if you didn’t vote for the current politicians, or even if you didn’t vote at all. Unless you can PROVE your allegations, bad mouthing leaders in charge does nothing to help our world cause, so for your sake and all humanity, grow up.

The internet has a long shelf life.

No one is interested in your opinionated political bias or armchair quarterbacking. Unless you have a positive contribution for a COVID-19 SOLUTION, keep partisan trolling to yourself for the next few months. The rest of us are looking for solutions. You’re either with us, or against us.

There’s no middle ground with Coronavirus.

You either have it, or you avoid it.

If you have it, phone your doctor and get in line for a respirator. Your life might depend on it.

As a society in these trying times, it’s not about how much money we throw at it, or the best deal we make to horde vaccines, it’s about working together to effectively manage this monster.

We can go back to fighting with each other later.

Maurice Cardinal has been a fisheries marketing and communications advisor and writer in British Columbia for almost a decade and has worked with leading organisations, NGOs, and governments in Canada and abroad.

Eradicating Ocean Pollution

Prime Minister Trudeau wants to move open-net pen fish farms out of the ocean because they cause pollution and spread viruses.


Moving from the ocean to LAND-BASED fish farms is a proactive decision, but there is so much more that needs to be done.

White Rock is a seaside community on the Pacific ocean in the most southern part of BC on the Canada / US border. It’s a town, attached to a larger growing city, Surrey, both of which are struggling for their identities. White Rock is growing very fast with tall condos racing up on almost every commercial city block. Some question whether city infrastructure like water and sewers will be able to manage the overwhelming growth.

Budgets are already stretched, so introducing an issue about ocean pollution into the mix is a serious challenge. There is only so much time in the day and dollars in the coffer.

Ocean pollution takes precedence however and isn’t something we should ever sweep under the rug.

White Rock has the same ocean challenges as everyone else. For decades Canadian cities have dumped raw sewage into the Pacific! Today, plastic in the ocean is a central player, and it’s serious, but so too are mercury, PCBs and other dioxins.

White Rock is a beautiful seaside town with large, expansive beaches, but most notable is that it sits adjacent to a number of bird sanctuaries. The word “sanctuary” literally means – “a place of refuge and safety.” White Rock beaches are protected wildlife areas.

White Rock is also a well-known Birding Spot, where, from the comfort of the pier you can see a very long list of feathered creatures like; Bonaparte’s Gulls, Red-Necked, Horned and Western Grebes, Surf and White-Winged Scoters, Common Pacific and Red-Throated Loons, Brandt’s Cormorants, Long-Tailed Ducks, Canada Geese, Bald Eagles, Black Turnstones and many more species.

You can also see Seals and Sea Lions. The water is alive with crabs, anchovies, flounder, sole, salmon, sand sharks and occasionally also whales like Greys, Humpbacks, and Orcas.

White Rock beaches are protected and delicate, but for the most part we forget how fragile the area is because it gets such heavy use by animals and humans alike.

We do all kinds of things at the beaches in White Rock, including wading, swimming, paddle-boarding, parasailing, kayaking, sailing, canoeing, and boating in general. White Rock beaches are active summer and winter. We even do a Polar Bear Swim in January.

The challenges at White Rock beaches are similar to issues at other Canadian seaside communities, so my goal here isn’t to single out our community.

One of the biggest issues regarding pollution on Canada’s coasts is that many communities for decades have dumped raw sewage and all kinds of contaminants into the ocean because most don’t have filtration plants, or if they do, the plants are inadequate.

The federal government recently imposed a ban stating that major cites (White Rock is NOT a major city) had to start filtering sewage by 2020, which is a major step in the right direction. Sewage is only one problem however, and as you can see below, not everyone shares the same respect for our oceans.

In February of 2020 I was walking along the White Rock beach near my home when I noticed a “sheen” on the water, and circling it was a six-foot wide oily looking rainbow ring. I estimated the sheen to be about the size of a football field emanating from the overflow pipe at the foot of Oxford Street.

It was growing larger very rapidly, and within an hour was at least twice the size. The creek/storm water overflow pipe extended into the ocean a short distance, maybe forty feet or so. Similar to many BC communities, the storm water system is attached to White Rock’s sewer system, and during periods of heavy rainfall, common in our area, anything in sewage pipes or storm sewers can be dumped directly into the ocean. At first I thought the sheen looked like gasoline, but it smelled more like transmission fluid, or some type of cleaner or paint thinner. It was also very thin and disappeared even though it coated my finger. It smelled strong, but I couldn’t see anything on my hand.

It’s not the first time a mysterious contaminant flooded our White Rock beaches. Something similar is reported more often than one would think, and each time it is dismissed as non-threatening and a one-time occurrence, which today isn’t a reasonable explanation.  

Ignoring stuff like this and calling it “NO CAUSE FOR CONCERN” is no longer acceptable.

I care personally because it’s my beach, and someone is polluting the fish and wildlife in our area.

I care professionally because I’m a business development and communications analyst who works in the fisheries and seafood industry, and one of my responsibilities over the last decade has been about finding solutions to help keep our oceans clean and our fish species safe.

The federal government recently mandated that all open-net pen fish farms on the BC coast be moved inland where they won’t be able to continue to pollute our oceans, which is a great step forward, but incidents like the one that just repeated itself at the White Rock beach are concerning.

The birds in the area floated completely on the outer edge of the “sheen”. Whatever the contaminant was, even the birds knew it was fowl. I suspect they knew because it smelled so strong.

I’m not a scientist, or biologist, and I’m not suggesting that “this” sheen directly killed fish or birds, but about six weeks before this particular contamination, hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions of anchovies washed up dead on our beaches overnight. It makes me wonder how often contaminants get dumped in our ocean–maybe even late at night while we are all sleeping?

On December 26 2019, hundreds of thousands of northern anchovies washed ashore dead onto White Rock’s beaches.

I witnessed the sheen on February 5, 2020.

I agree that one isolated incident could be an accident and probably doesn’t cause much harm to wildlife in our big ocean, but what if it occurs once a night, or every week, or even once a month? What happens collectively, and is anyone monitoring it adequately?

By the sounds of it, not likely.

The reason for the kill-off offered by biologists is that the fish we’re simply too crammed together and starved themselves of oxygen and died. It’s plausible, but the scientific evidence to support what is admittedly only a theory, and that at the best of times has less than fifty percent chance of being right, is terribly skewed.

Yes, the fish could have and probably did die from hypoxia, lack of oxygen, but without context and not knowing why the fish were so susceptible is a critical part of the puzzle that was never addressed.

The worn argument by biologists goes like this;

In 2011 and a few documented times since, millions of anchovies swam into a protected U.S. marina at such high density that the amount of oxygen in the weather couldn’t support them, and they died in massive numbers. The difference between Marina del Ray in California then, and White Rock BC today is that White Rock is not a protected marina. It isn’t even a cove. It’s a very wide bay beach of about five kilometers that ramps quickly from about forty feet depth to about eight feet along the entire beach. The tide’s fluctuation is about seven feet on average. Nothing extraordinary about this type of gently-sloping seafloor. It’s mostly a calm, lapping-wave style of beach, and mostly silt and sand. There is absolutely nothing in this area to trap fish like one would experience in a marina. White Rock fish can simply swim in three unencumbered directions to find oxygen.

According to Wikipedia ” Fish kills may result from a variety of causes. Of known causes, fish kills are most frequently caused by pollution from agricultural runoff or biotoxins.

I’m not arguing that the anchovies didn’t die of oxygen depletion, but I am questioning why the fish were so susceptible to oxygen depletion that they died. Healthy fish can overcome fluctuations in temperature, or the stress of being hunted by predators, but they CANNOT survive the added stress of also being poisoned. It’s common sense that was never addressed by local media. The amount of fish that died would fill tractor trailers. It was a tragic ecological event that through brilliant PR messaging became a question of whether the water was safe for swimmers in a few days for the annual New Year Polar Plunge!

Contaminated water was quickly ruled out.

The polar bear plunge went ahead.

The only reason I saw the “SHEEN” on the water a few weeks later was because the ocean was calm, with only gently lapping waves. If there would have been any type of wave action, the sheen would have simply floated back to shore and been driven into the sand with each wave. If the contaminant was dumped into the storm system late at night, no one would have witnessed it. I just happened to be at the right place at the appropriate time.

I wonder now how many spills I’ve missed.

Fish in our oceans have been contaminated with mercury , arsenic, PCBs, and other dioxins for decades.

Granted, some of it is naturally occurring, but poison like this usually comes from manufacturing. If every storm water overflow pipe that dumps into the ocean trickles poison like this, imagine the collective flow and damage. There are four pipes alone in this one stretch of White Rock beach.

Everyone needs to pitch in to manage what is now recognized as a crisis for our oceans, which means the province and municipal governments also have a responsibility.

We also need to define responsibility even further at the citizen level and educate those who live along shorelines to feel an obligation to protect our oceans and waterways.

If someone spewed smoke in the air everyone in your neighborhood would be up in arms. When it happens in our oceans though, citizens are for the most part complacent, and apathetic, like it’s not their problem.

We have to quit looking the other way.

Maurice Cardinal has been a fisheries marketing and communications advisor and writer in British Columbia for almost a decade and has worked with leading organisations, NGOs, and governments in Canada and abroad.

Oceans are Changing

Pollution is an uncontested fact. How you regard your role is critical to your career.

Whether fish are wild, or if they live in an open-net pen farm in the ocean, they swim in water that contains mercury, PCBs, plastic fibers and microbeads. This bouillabaisse of toxins is present in all of our oceans and creates health risks for sea life and humans. FISH raised in open-net fish farms in the ocean contain the same contaminants as wild fish, and in some cases even more because of the higher fat content in farmed salmon and sablefish. Poisons bind at higher rates in fat, so the more fat, the more potential for higher concentration. Children and women of child bearing age need to be aware.

Plastic fibers and microbeads also impact seafood and our health, we just don’t yet know exactly how, or to what degree – kind of like smoking in the 60s.

WCA fish raised in land-based RAS IMTA ecosystems swim in near pristine water, which means that “theoretically” anyone can safely eat health-appropriate amounts of seafood – kids too, even toddlers that test negative for allergies of course, and your cat. It still needs to be proven in practice, but at this stage it’s a huge selling feature and UP VOTE for socially responsible land-based fish farming.

Tall Tails

When it works for consumers it works for investors.

Contemporary demographic groups, largely millennials, support  B Corps, and regard seafood differently than all other age groups. Like many people, millennials are also frugal, but seafood for some of them is an event! Younger demographics with low to moderate incomes will save for premium quality seafood, and make conscious decisions to eat less. Health and social responsibility are high on their lists.

Regarding the taste in your mouth, land-based RAS fish don’t suffer from jelly-flesh, a parasite that occurs in open-net pen farmed salmon. Also, land-based fish, when raised using the very progressive WCA – Wild Caught Aquaculture method, are healthy, and can be similar to the texture and taste of wild fish straight from the ocean. At this point, the taste and tactile sensation hasn’t been fully documented, but it’s only a matter of time and refinement.

More chefs need to express WCA interest.

Open-net pens in the ocean are often overcrowded – like feed lots for cattle. When nature doesn’t cooperate in these enclosed environments, algae blooms in the ocean can grow quickly and choke all the oxygen out of the water. It causes overcrowded fish in open-net pens to die rapidly – recently in one case in numbers as great as 8 million within one week. Fish kills that large are catastrophic for not only the fish obviously, but also for our oceans and the environment. When 8 million salmon die it equates to 40,000 rotting metric tonne of wasted carbon. Wild fish simply swim away from the algae bloom, but open-net farmed fish are trapped and suffocate. It’s not humane by any standards, and if we killed off a similar ratio of cuddly-looking polar bears, well the global outcry would go viral in a nanosecond.

Theoretically, all lives matter, practically, hmm … a subject for another article.

Technically, WCA RAS IMTA land-based pools can also be high-density, but overcrowding contravenes a self-imposed requirement of the model. Even at volume, an enhanced CRAFT presence is obligatory to create certain “notes”. WCA RAS IMTA aquaponics has a very unique wild caught provenance infused within its ecosystem that imparts self-leveling methods and practices. Just like in fine-wine, certain protocols must be met to achieve taste, texture, and certification. It’s hard to fool your nose, and impossible to trick your tongue–mush is mush.

Although provenance is critically important to a small select group of seafood lovers, for most consumers at the counter price is still the deciding factor. Consequently, the marketing and investment question will always be; How much will discriminating seafood lovers pay for exemplary fish, whether wild, farmed, or wild-caught farmed?

Premium is a niche market, but it doesn’t necessarily support high margins, especially on start up.

Other significant advantages however are that land-based ecosystems can be more easily and accurately monitored, plus the levels of quarantine available make it cost effective to prevent disease from spreading. Land-based WCA RAS IMTA fish swim in a relatively stress-free ecosystem that balances water quality and feeding schedules, causing fish to grow at optimum rates in a relatively natural way. It’s not the ocean, but it’s close enough, and it’s stress free. The fish are healthy and content.

Those with RAS IMTA experience have no pretense about how challenging it is to imitate an ocean environment, and they share it through their social media channels and other new media. OPEN SOURCE is as much part of the front end user experience as is the backend code, which means transparency is an important component on all levels. It’s a dynamic that reflects today’s cluster culture.

Almost the entire fish farm industry in North America and the western world focuses exclusively on farming salmon, and mostly Atlantic salmon from hatcheries–rarely wild. A Norwegian, publicly-traded company ASA-ME, Atlantic Sapphire, is building the largest land-based RAS salmon farming operation in the world in Miami. They call their fish farms “bluehouses” a play on the traditional greenhouse, and refer to blue as the new green. Sapphire opened their first bluehouse in Denmark in 2011 and have a long lead on the rest of the world in this space. Land-based fish farming has been around for a while, but not to this technological and biological depth.  

At this stage of the land-based fish farm industry in Canada, salmon is also the apex player, and it will be for a very long time. A few aqua farmers focus on wild caught finfish like halibut, sablefish, rockfish, and lingcod, but they are rebel players in a niche market trying to grow-out, or on-grow as some call it, wild fish. It’s an overwhelming challenge, and in early 2020 still unproven at any appreciable volume. Even though there is a great need for alternative species beyond salmon–sablefish holds promising potential, it is still a very high risk bet for investors, or the government. However, if land-based RAS IMTA continues to grow at its current pace, the knowledge necessary to make species other than salmon a viable concept could be available in as little as five years, and maybe a bit less. It’s interesting to watch this space, but it’s still early in the game.

The biggest concern for this group, is that only a handful of small WCA craft companies around the world know what a wild fish will taste like when it’s caught in the ocean and then raised in a land-based saltwater RAS IMTA ecosystem. Taste is the deciding factor, especially when tied to premium prices, which is inherent in using this model.

Will it taste great … or just good?

The accepted and understood challenge is that at least initially and maybe even for the next decade, land-based farmed fish will be expensive–if you demand a premium price, the quality has to match.

Good, is not good enough when you pay premium  prices.

There is no doubt that a high quality consumer will pay for high quality fish. There was a market for Prius in 1997 when it launched, and also for Tesla when it launched in 2003, but twenty-three years later electric cars still haven’t gone mainstream, but we’re close.  The catch is that this type of consumer is incredibly discriminating. Regardless of what Richard Branson’s Galactic Space ticket costs ($250,000), at this stage it is highly unlikely fish farmers will find a premium market in the near future at any appreciable volume. Granted, a few around the world already have craft offerings, for example, sablefish is a premium species that a few BC fish farmers are developing because margins have potential to be incredibly high. The reality though is that these fish don’t hit their peak of taste until they mature. Sablefish, also known as Butterfish, don’t get exquisitely buttery until they are at least ten years old, and the older the better. Smaller fish still taste good, but if a consumer is going to pay a premium price that is considerably higher than the real wild sablefish, they will expect exemplary taste.

Taste isn’t the only consideration.

Purity is also a valued attribute for premium customers.

One of the biggest upsides beyond taste and texture, is that a land-based WCA RAS IMTA aquaponics farmed finfish will have less contaminants because it was raised in clean water. In the wild, sablefish live to be ninety years old and can grow to eighty pounds, absorbing cumulative levels of mercury, PCBs, and plastic fibers over very long periods. It’s best to leave them in the ocean for obvious health reasons, but also because larger sablefish are the most hardy and prolific breeders and will replenish the species faster than their younger and smaller counterparts.

In order to meet taste and purity benchmarks, land-based WCA RAS IMTA aquaponics fish farmers will need to feed their fish sustainable organic food on a regular schedule, which theoretically will quickly put on bulk and bring sablefish to that “buttery” flavour profile faster. At this point though in 2020, FCR, food conversion ratio and weight gain are still mostly theory and well guarded secrets of craft fish farmers, although if you research advances in Greenland and Norway, you can find real numbers.

Unlike fish in the ocean that are stressed and might not eat for several months at a time, a fish in a RAS pool will eat on a regular schedule and grow rapidly, but still in a relatively natural way. There is however, potential for abuse that has to be addressed so we don’t fall into a “foie gras” conundrum and think force feeding is acceptable because it is just a fish.

Overfeeding is not humane for any living creature.

At this point, craft fisheries still have more questions than answers.

Here’s one more conundrum; Using WCA, if you place smaller wild caught sablefish in a land-based RAS IMTA ecosystem it’s quite possible a fish farmer would have to grow them out for several years to bring out the buttery taste, which wouldn’t be cost effective. On the flip side, if you capture larger wild sablefish in the ocean, say over ten pounds and then place them in your ecosystem to grow out, they would have already lived so long in polluted oceans they would contain relatively high levels of contaminants, which defeats the attraction of a pure fish. Who would pay more for a fish that wouldn’t taste quite as good as the real thing, and that also has contaminants in its system?   

Even the best health organizations have trouble keeping everything straight; The FDA in a recent seafood health chart, lists Butterfish as a BEST CHOICE, and further down the same list they include Sablefish as a lesser GOOD CHOICE. Even more confusing … sablefish are also sometimes called black cod, and guess what, they aren’t even cod.

Envision for a moment that all these issues could be managed effectively, and that WCA fish farms could produce a healthy, relatively contaminant-free fish that isn’t prohibitively expensive … How would a fish farmer do it at large enough volume to satisfy the market?

It’s NOT a conundrum.

The one word answer … “Technology!”

Maurice Cardinal has been a fisheries marketing and communications advisor and writer in British Columbia for almost a decade and has worked with leading organisations, NGOs, and governments in Canada and abroad.

We’ve Got the Whole World

Underestimating progress and today’s importance of protecting our ocean environment would be a grave mistake.

Most experts in the fisheries and seafood industry still don’t realize the Canadian federal government made a preemptive decision thirty years ago when they first started developing salmon fish farming in open-net pens. In the early 80’s when the DFO first began exploring salmon fish farming, wild salmon stocks on the west coast in Canada were still strong and had not shown any signs of weakening until about 1991. Canadian fishers harvested the highest rates in history between 1970 and 1990, in part because boats and gear had improved considerably, plus, quotas were introduced. Harvest limits were being consistently exceeded for all salmon species and no one at any level including fishers, processors, or distributors were raising alarms. It was reflective of egregious over-fishing, but no one cared. What had become a serious challenge however was the escalating cost to monitor fishers to ensure they followed regulations. Day to day fisheries management was, and still is an overwhelming challenge for the DFO.

The easily solution at the time seemed to be Atlantic salmon fish-farming in the ocean–it would considerably reduce the cost of managing fisheries. No one at the time in Canada envisioned challenges like the pollution that collects below open-net pens, or viruses, or sea lice. All we saw was a seemingly cheap way to farm fish and feed nations. Looks can be deceiving.

About five years after modern commercial salmon fish farming was launched (1985), wild BC salmon harvest limits “started” to decline in lockstep with fish farming growth. On a graph, a perfectly symmetrical “X”, occurred at a five year juncture where the two paths crossed. The pattern indicated that fish farming was introduced well-before wild salmon landed weights showed any reduction. Wild salmon harvest limits declined at the exact same ratio that fish farming grew, and that type of coincidental symmetry isn’t reflective of what normally occurs in nature. The precision was uncanny, but at the time fishers didn’t feel threatened by fish farming because wild fisheries were still “seemingly” healthy.

Nothing in fisheries is cut and dry however, and sometimes decisions are made for reasons no one but a select few understand. At the end of the day the feds made the right choice, but it wasn’t entirely for the reasons most people think. Biologists could not predict with any accuracy what would happen in the early 90s regarding the rapid decline of wild salmon stocks, but it was possible to manage the transition to fish farming in open-net pens.

Old school fish farming held great potential to be more cost-effective than live capture and the monitoring of wild fisheries, but unfortunately it suffered through serious bio-tech and marketing challenges. Many of the environmental issues weren’t managed effectively.

Today however, fish farming, specifically LAND-BASED salmon fish farming is a realistic solution that will help heal species and our oceans. In the 90s it was heavily promoted that salmon farming would make seafood cheaper, which as we all know never happened because of ancillary costs no one predicted – like antibiotics and huge fish-farm kill-offs. Technology improved operations considerably, but the argument that open-net fish farming will deliver cheaper seafood is still a long shot, especially due to high start-up capital and operations costs.

Uninformed critics simply say, “Stop Fishing! …and let species recover

Unfortunately, it will take as long or longer for oceans to heal as it did to create the harm. The reality is that over half of the world relies on fish as their staple source protein, which means we can’t stop and wait for fifty years or more for the oceans and species to heal. We need a solution today.

WCA-Wild Caught Aquaculture

Wild caught land-based fish farming using RAS IMTA is viable, and although it hasn’t been proven for high volume, in 2020, companies like Atlantic Sapphire using BASIC RAS IMTA are on the cusp of producing half of the farmed salmon currently consumed in the USA.

When you also incorporate AQUAPONICS with WCA, it makes even greater ecological and economic sense. 

One of BC’s longest and strongest proponents of land-based salmon farming has been Tony Allard, and the organization, “Wild Salmon Forever” – he’s the current chairman. Groups like his have propelled the argument to move salmon farming out of the ocean and to land-based for several years. Other visionaries like Eric Peterson and Christina Munck of the Tula Foundation have contributed significantly to the health of our oceans using education and scientific technology as a base for development.

The secret to environmental and ecological growth is in being able to see meta patterns and manage information in a way that will allow us to make good decision. Big Data can provide an overview of meta patterns, which means land-based fisheries will need to quickly adopt highly advanced technology through tools like IPFS blockchain on the distributed web. High volume land-based WCA RAS IMTA will not work any other way.

New technologies like AI and machine learning make it possible for small enterprises to operate with the same authority as large enterprise networks. It’s the identical principle that over the last few years allowed niche banks to disrupt big banking and investment networks around the world.

In response to people who outright oppose farming of any wild animals, it’s important to understand that society does now have the expertise and technology to do it properly and humanely. The challenging question however is more about who we approve, through licensing, to be wild farmers. Fish farming is markedly harder than raising cattle or chickens. With a little smarts and enough money almost anyone can be a traditional land farmer with very moderate training.

Farming wild animals however, fish especially, is a completely different enterprise.

If you want to take on the WCA salmon challenge, you also need to be well educated and business smart. The technology required is much more sophisticated than tossing a long line in the water and hooking a fish, or dragging a net through the ocean. We all saw where that got us, and know we can’t trust the honour system for such sensitive decisions. It only takes a small handful of pirates and bad actors to ruin it for everyone.

Licensing of fish farms needs to be well planned and comprehensive, and not awarded to just anyone because they have misplaced ecological-will, or deep pockets – a lot is at stake beyond just profit.

A child can fish. Land-based WCA RAS IMTA is a lot more difficult, which means we need professionals who understand it at a systemic level, and who can deliver a responsible ecological and profitable solution.

Maurice Cardinal has been a fisheries marketing and communications advisor and writer in British Columbia for almost a decade and has worked with leading organisations, NGOs, and governments in Canada and abroad.


Open-Net Pen Fish Farming Reinvented

Wild BC salmon stocks are in a free fall towards decline. If we, as a society don’t do something immediately, as in today, salmon species in British Columbia will all move dangerously close to becoming extinct.

Northern creep of warmer oceans advances every year, and it’s picking up speed. In order to breed, salmon need cold water in rivers that are sometimes warming faster than oceans – a half degree rise in temperature has devastating consequences.

Pollution is also having a direct and ancillary effect.

Microplastic, the latest scourge, is layered on top of mercury, PCBs, and other dioxins. Parts of our oceans are slowly turning to soupa modern day ocean bouillabaisse.

Overfishing however … is the biggest reason for depleted species.

When we launched Wild Salmon Cove in 2013 our goal was to support the independent side of wild commercial fisheries in BC, with a heavy list towards trolling gear – guys like Jon Hunter have a lot of good stuff to say.

For almost a decade we’ve connected people and companies across a number of industries, including FinTech–we liked the disruptive value implications, and believe it’s also important to follow the money. We’ve helped a number of companies and organizations, governments too, develop innovative IT projects that delivered more streamlined and cost-effective supply chains.

Tech makes things possible for fisheries that we’ve never even dreamed, and it’s about to ramp into hyper-drive.

Data is the driver. BIG Data makes it possible for small companies and organizations to be competitive–quite often based on disruptive marketing and operations models. On the government side of the spectrum, and now because everyone will be able to more cost effectively collect and manage accurate data, small enterprise networks using IPFS blockchain on the distributed web will also make it easier for fisheries to manage wild and farmed fish stocks. Costs will be substantially reduced.

Our collective new 2020 ideal will be built along Social Media and CLUSTER tenets – modeled on trust, transparency, and community. Supply chain streamlining and cooperation will be key to success and overall viability.

It’s no surprise to anyone anymore that oceans can no longer feed the world, of which over half of us consume seafood as a staple protein.

After thirty years of research, development, and innovation, it’s also clear that fish farming in the ocean in open-net pens was a great effort, but it can’t deliver holistically. Production at all costs reflective of our oceans is not sustainable, or responsible. Environmental and ecological challenges far outweigh the benefits. We have to first take care of the oceans and all it’s life forms, and always make marketing decisions based on cultivating a healthy planet.

Something has to change respective of open-net fish farms in the ocean. Almost everyone agrees closed-containment in the deep ocean can meet environmental and ecological markers. It’s also fair to say though that the odds of it being successful and sustainable are just as good and maybe even better using land-based aqua and bio technology. Inland, WCA RAS IMTA using aquaponics is as technically possible as closed containment is in the ocean. Land-based is also much safer, and in today’s society, safety counts.

The main argument coming from the open-net pen industry is that land-based fish farming will be too expensive. They’re right, everything in the beginning is expensive, but if you really want to be socially and environmentally responsible you have to step outside of the flow and chart a new course. Open-net pen proponents also want investors to think land-based is not a good bet. The reality however is that there are investors out there who are obsessively interested in the planet, and who understand what OPEN SOURCE means–technologically and as a socially responsible marketing concept. The relatively new business ideology, B CORP is built on trust and transparency, and counts companies like PATAGONIA as members.

It wouldn’t be a bad idea if all food companies met B Corp standards.

Change is way complicated than it looks, and for good reason … Over 90% of an iceberg’s mass is below water, and the same goes for fisheries.

Fisheries of all types, wild ocean or fish farm, will benefit from a move inland. At this late stage, it’s one of the fastest and most effective ways to heal our oceans and sea life, animal and plant.

We seem to have the ecological will as a global community, but we now need strong political leadership to enact the change we want to be.  

Maurice Cardinal has been a fisheries marketing and communications advisor and writer in British Columbia for almost a decade and has worked with leading organisations, NGOs, and governments in Canada and abroad.

Wild Salmon Goes Inland

Written by Maurice Cardinal  …

Open-Net Fish Farms Mandated Out of Canadian Oceans will start to move to closed containment or land-based by 2025

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced September 2019, that open-net fish farms in Canada’s oceans will be required to move to LAND-BASED facilities, and that they will be in transition to that end by 2025.

The five year introductory plan was met with mixed reactions, mostly progressive, but also framed with strong comments on either side, especially from ocean based open-net salmon farmers who immediately promised to be aggressive in their resistance.

When moved out of the ocean along BC’s Pacific coast, land-based operations will be variations of RAS and IMTA fish farms. Hopefully, many will also incorporate WCA aquaponics ecosystems, but taking it to that level will be incredibly challenging. It’s true that WCA does hold the most potential to reinvent fisheries, but the concept has not yet been proven at craft-size, let alone large volume.

As I mentioned in Salmon Business Magazine, Canadians are already exploring WCA – Wild Caught Aquaculture in very limited numbers. One or two approached it scientifically, and over several years have been building their knowledge base. Others are ex-fishers, distributors, and small processors looking today to capitalize on an opportunity in fisheries, that yesterday, they ironically, tacitly and complicity dragged to the brink of collapse. Those guilty of doing more harm than good over the decades will be dismissed as pirates and opportunists. They are for the most part transparent speculators hoping to get swept up in the rush to new-found gold.

This type of brazen entrepreneur is dangerous for our oceans and fish species because they take an adversarial approach, and don’t understand or respect how communities and clusters work–it takes more than knowing buzzwords. Thankfully, there are dedicated entrepreneurs who have been developing conventional fish farming for several years, and who already understand the challenges.

Canada is promoting an era of team-playing and community, and trust and transparency, which is clearly described in Prime Minister Trudeau’s manifesto for a modern fishery. No other country has taken this initiative – some call it brave while detractors vilify it as reckless. Personally, I think it is progressive and long overdue, but only time will tell. At this point, the make or break conclusion will be dependent on sound political leadership.  

WCA proponents have experimented with various versions of wild caught RAS IMTA for a few years, and have amassed unique DATA – the Holy Grail of competition in 2020. Some propose that markets other than salmon might be more lucrative, like sablefish or halibut for example. They are investing and learning how to do it in their own unique ways by raising fish in both land-based and open-net environments. So far though in early 2020, their results have mostly been underreported, except to say that RAS IMTA bio-tech challenges are overwhelming. No one so far, anywhere in the world has been able to do it successfully at large scale, but they are getting close. At this stage it’s still a craft industry, but it’s on the verge of going mainstream.

Playing Mother Nature is way harder than it looks.

The federal government’s long awaited decision to transition fish farms to land-based operations will benefit fish species, as well as our oceans and coastal communities, which in large part on Canada’s west coast are First Nations. Inland fish farms can provide coastal Aboriginal communities with employment in the ocean and on land using the wild caught WCA process.

Someone has to capture the wild fish to grow out in the RAS pools, and First Nations have all the skills, knowledge, and equipment necessary. They also have experience in conventional open-net pens that can be easily transitioned. Land-based fish farms need highly educated and skilled specialists, which means a wide and varied HR pool. Land-based WCA RAS IMTA aquaponics will employ considerably more people than any previous fisheries.

When Prime Minister Trudeau announced the transition in September of 2019, some open-net pen west coast fish farmers reacted immediately and angrily, threatening strong-resistance. It was an expected response, and in general with merit, but it’s not justified when looked at through an environmental and ecological lens. No doubt a move like this will cause open-net pen operators to shoulder considerable cost, but they don’t have to do it alone. The primary issue here is about the health of our oceans and salmon stocks. The government’s plan is to provide support at a number of levels. Everyone wants the transition inland to succeed, especially Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan. There is a lot at stake for everyone, including and above all Canada’s oceans and sea life.

The general public, aka seafood consumers are just beginning to understand the ramifications of open-net farming in the ocean, and consequently half-wondering what all the noise is about. Fish are fish, right … hmm, no.

Fish are NOT inanimate objects. Fish feel pain and react to stress like every other living creature – animal or plant. A happy chicken, cow, or fish tastes better–it’s scientific fact. Humanity has not been kind to fish throughout history. Fisheries of all ilk, wild or farmed, for the most part ignore humane methods of harvesting and processing unless forced to through regulation. Land-based farms will incorporate sophisticated in-house humane end of life and processing methods that will be easy and cost effective to monitor. Details like that will add immeasurably to value at the counter, which provides great incentive for companies to self-regulate. SCADA systems operating on IPFS small enterprise blockchain networks will revolutionize fisheries forever and for the better. Traceability will become a foregone conclusion, and it will be cost effective, adding pure value.

Moving open-net fish farms to land-based is confusing even for many in the industry who support the move. Many people believe land-based fish farming will be relatively easy. The reality however is that running an open-net operation in the ocean does not necessarily mean you have the required knowledge to operate a land-based fish farm at volume. Even at small scale it is a challenge to produce tasty fish at a profit – the key being “tasty”. Each discipline is radically different at a number of fundamental levels. For this reason alone it is understandable that current open-net pen operators are nervous. Competition is fierce and changes like this can put overwhelming pressure on operations already at risk.

Land-based fish farming is still not proven at large volume. Scientifically however, a land-based WCA RAS IMTA aquaponics ecosystem contains all the elements necessary to deliver a perfectly balanced holistic solution. It adds up as plausible on paper, but duplicating an ocean-like environment is challenging, and so far in early 2020 the results haven’t been spectacular. There are exceptions, but they are the true scientific pioneers and tiny players in places like Greenland or Norway. Canadians might be aware of these strategies, but we have zero experience executing at any scale. Even if you embrace the move inland, at this nascent stage it would be like watching football on TV thinking you could be a quarterback. Thanks to data and open source knowledge-share though, we do at least have a playbook.

Armchair land-based fish farmers are now starting to come out of the woodwork armed with only dreams and little more. It’s a repeat of the lucrative 80s and 90s when wild salmon were so plentiful you could get rich just by showing up like a pirate to fill your holds with treasure.

Fishing is not going to be that easy this time.

All the individual components for WCA RAS IMTA are available, and they all work in their silos, but when you combine the different elements needed for a fully functioning ecosystem, the challenges hit light speed quickly. On first blush it sounds like all that is required is to dig a few holes in the ground and do what open-net pen fish farmers did in the ocean. Almost anyone can Google for solutions already being exercised in Scandinavian countries, then create a fancy 3D video, and you’re off to the races! Even if current open-net ocean fish farmers were to embrace the move to land-based, and so far they haven’t … they still need to update their knowledge and skills to be regarded seriously by investors.

Reinventing fisheries is uncompromisingly complex!

Land-based fish farming at volume means anyone interested has to start from scratch, which levels the playing field considerably. Admittedly by most in this arena, no one at his stage knows exactly what they are doing. Some would like you to think so, but it’s mostly boastful conjecture with very few verifiable numbers to back it up, which is a big problem for investors. The same issues existed when the internet first came on the scene–it took well over a decade for anyone to be profitable. The first to profit were the software companies building the tools, and then ten years later in 1994 Amazon showed up and got the ball rolling. It took another full decade for Facebook to launch in 2004.

The land-based fish farming paradigm has very similar growth-and-acceptance challenges.

Disparity between the two very-different fish farming practices is considerable, and it’s what will give the new “pure players” an advantage. They come to the table without preconceived notions or a sense of entitlement. Fresh faces are more capable of finding fresh solutions, and it’s exactly what fisheries desperately need right now – modern and fresh.

For example, open-net fish farming in the ocean demands a regime of antibiotics, pesticides, and vaccines, while land-based RAS IMTA (WCA or not), does not need chemicals and drugs to manage fish health. Why? … because disease in an open-net pen floating in the ocean spreads so rapidly drugs are often used as a preventative strategy before any appreciable level of disease or sickness is even present. It’s a defeatists’ attitude based on negativity. At the very least, drugs are expensive and increase the cost of seafood at the counter, plus antibiotics linger in the flesh if it’s not purged properly. Open-net fish farmers need specialized pharmaceutical expertise and also highly trained and experienced veterinarian aqua specialists on staff to monitor stock 24/7. It’s a skill open-net fish farmers developed over three decades, and it represents a huge investment in R&D and training. Large pharmaceutical companies stand a lot to lose here, which is a story for another time. Suffice it to say though that pharma has strong incentive to fuel a fire and economically support resistance to change. 

WCA RAS IMTA is a more holistic and organic approach, especially when you incorporate aquaponics.

Although chemicals and drugs are not necessary in WCA RAS IMTA ecosystems, there are as you can see other specialized skills required that fall under animal husbandry and advanced bio-technology.

Land-Based RAS IMTA demands precision and discipline, and is not for rank amateurs.

Fishers Need MORE Access to Salmon

Most fishers and smaller processors are hard working, trustworthy people.

Part 4 in this 4 part series – BC Fishers Made Scapegoats

They are also, for the most part, friendly. Fishers have a lot in common with farmers who have also suffered similar economic fate at the hands of large corporations and government.

Independent fishers need more access to wild BC salmon, not less!

Marketing councils work in partnership with large processors that in a good season scoops up millions of tons of wild BC salmon to boil, can, and sell in Europe at premium prices and high profit.

The work with private contractors to win grants that allow them to promote canned wild BC Salmon in Europe under a Canadian banner even though independent British Columbian fishers provide a large portion of the funds to get the ball rolling.

BC wild salmon is promoted as Canadian salmon in Europe regardless of the fact that BC is now the only province where wild salmon is commercially captured. The East Coast commercial wild salmon fishery collapsed a long time ago. The only commercial salmon the East has left is Atlantic FARMED salmon.

Today, if you capture and sell wild salmon, it comes from the West Coast, but because of restrictive clauses in grant agreements, it CANNOT be promoted in Europe as a BC food product, which is detrimental to independent BC salmon fishers.

Back in the day, when wild BC salmon stocks were healthy, global sales strategies and restrictions like this were reluctantly acceptable. Today however, now that wild BC salmon stocks are seriously depleted, some strains even extinct, it makes no sense to seine net salmon like it was 1950 and churn it into SPAMon that sells at an artificially inflated price to an uneducated foreign market. Europeans and Asians have little idea some strains of BC wild salmon are extinct.

If such a large volume of wild BC salmon wasn’t being shipped off to Europe and China there would be more fish left in local waters for independent fishers to capture. The absolute biggest complaint independent BC salmon fishers have is that the DFO restricts their capture quotas because the government claims salmon stocks are under too much pressure. It’s the same government that partners with large processors that sell millions of tons of canned salmon in Europe at premium prices and high margin.

Today, it makes better sense, from a sustainability and marketing perspective, to invest more research and development in FRESH and FRESH FROZEN wild BC salmon, a seafood product that when promoted properly, raises the perceived value of Canada’s iconic fish and puts more of it in the local and national market at an affordable price. As good as lobster tastes, and as much as we all love it, remember, wild salmon is a much more nutritious food choice than lobster slathered in butter. Fresh and fresh frozen wild BC salmon is rich in Omega-3 and a heart-healthy food source for kids and seniors alike.

Large processors, whose capital investment and infrastructure are primarily modeled on old school canning, can’t generate the same profit margin on fresh or fresh frozen salmon, so even though fresh is good for the health of salmon stocks and local consumers, it’s not a product line large processors are interested in developing. Profit is paramount and everything else takes a back seat. Decades ago, when Canada had healthy salmon stocks, few people were concerned about who was profiting and by how much, but today sustainability issues are radically different, as reported by the Cohen Commission.

Today, for consumers, it makes more sense to only eat wild salmon that has been minimally processed so it retains all its natural goodness. Eating higher quality fresh and fresh frozen wild salmon means you can eat less and receive more heath benefits, which translates into more people having access at a cost effective price point. It’s the responsible and common sense thing to do.

When you’re talking about a wild, potentially non-renewable living food source which in part is a result of fishing pressure, climate change, and pollution, it’s unethical to allow profit to undermine the sustainability of such a valuable keystone fish.

Wild BC salmon is a living creature, not a billboard ad, or a car.

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Why the Rich are Freaking Out

Click to read Part 1 of this 4 Part seriesBC Salmon Fishers Made Scapegoats

Salmon Levies Grew the Industry

Part 3 in this 4 part series – BC Fishers Made Scapegoats

In BC, all salmon fishers are required by the provincial government to pay a levy for each pound of fish they capture and deliver to processors big and small, or sell directly from their boats.

Processors, referred to as first buyers, are legally mandated and required to collect this tax on behalf of the BC Salmon Marking Council, and the Council is mandated to manage and use the money to improve and promote the wild salmon industry at home and around the world on behalf of the BC provincial government. It’s a complex circle of loopholes that even experienced industry pros have a very hard time following.

Over the last decade or so, when BC banks and credit unions quit lending money to independent fishers, opportunistic processors stepped in to provide funds and capitalize on a weak system. A desperate fisher who had a slow year and was about to lose his or her boat and livelihood had little choice but to go to large companies. On the surface it sounded like a good idea, but unfortunately it is too incestuous and poorly regulated.

In order to foster a healthy industry, a producer should not be a supplier’s direct competitor. It’s economics 101. Seafood processors should only compete with other processors, and fishers only with other fishers. When the free market paradigm shifts, as it has here, where one processor controls the aggregation of a large portion of the supply, as well as every production step along the chain right down to the ice for boat holds, it evolves into a monopoly that cultivates a propensity for wholesale price fixing, which is not healthy for any industry, and in this case especially, for already depleted salmon stocks.

It becomes troublesome when a considerable portion of the levy that small salmon fishers are required to pay is used by large processors to apply for grants that primarily benefit only large processors.

At international seafood shows, sales profit derived as a result of show promotion goes to large processors and brokers, and it is not shared proportionately with, or does it benefit independent fishers and smaller processors. Theoretically, it’s supposed to be an equitable exercise for the BC salmon industry overall, but practically it is impossible for it to roll out that way. Plus, there is another hidden layer that allows for an additional round of grant funding that promotes only canned salmon in Europe. Selling canned salmon in Europe does little for the independent salmon troller and gillnetter who pay a sizeable proportion of levies. It actually hurts this group as well as smaller processors who buy their salmon.

The Council is the “intermediary” that makes the grant application process possible. Regulations state that grant applications must be applied for and administered through a neutral organization like the BCSMC. Theoretically, it’s a democratic system designed to help everyone big and small. Practically though, it started out great twenty-five or so years ago, but it never kept up with the times. Fisheries need to be reinvented from the top down and improvements made that serve everyone equitably, including and especially our oceans and fish species.

Click here to read Part 4 in this 4 part series . . .

BC Fishers Struggling

Pawns in an Ocean of Kings

Part 1 in this 4 part series – 

Some of the hardest working people in Canada, BC salmon fishers, are struggling more than ever. The future is challenging for all sectors.

BC’s independent commercial wild salmon fishers are being leveraged by a passive-aggressive, hiding-in-plain-sight group that knows how to manage regulations and win grants. The disparity causes a divide. The infighting hurts not only fishers, but also the health of wild salmon stocks in British Columbia, and ultimately seafood consumers.

Many people believe Canadian Prime Minster Stephen Harper is selling out wild BC salmon for Albertan oil one stream at a time. Enbridge is hard to resist for obvious reasons. The surprising part however is that Harper has experienced almost zero opposition from the wild salmon industry.

Some in the seafood industry are vocal and against the pipeline, but it’s primarily backroom chatter from commercial and sport fishers, and a few smaller processors as well. It’s mostly talk without action, except of course from First Nations who are poised to go to war. While FN leaders present viable arguments and objections, non-native fishers and smaller processors, who are almost tapped out financially and emotionally, cross their fingers hoping someone else will do the heavy lifting. The reality though is that if salmon stocks and fisheries are to be protected, everyone has to pull together through organizations like the BC Salmon Marketing Council.

Canadian governments award grant money by the boatload to wild salmon organizations like the BCSMC. The Council works in partnership with large processors, who, based on their competitive business model, have great economic incentive to manage  independent fishers and smaller processors in ways that serve their purposes. It makes economic sense for large processors to own their own salmon fishing boats, which on the surface isn’t a bad thing, however, large processors, who are focused primarily on profit, pay the captains and crews working the boats little more than subsistence wages. Something has to change.

The days of proud independent BC salmon fishers owning their own boats and selling their catch to a variety of competitive processors at a fair price are vanishing.

Canadians who worry about buying free trade coffee should be more concerned about free trade wild salmon. It’s a challenge for a long list of reasons, one of which is that it is independent fishers and smaller processors who work hard to ensure wild salmon stocks remain healthy.

It’s also important to note that big processors can, and do, process FARMED salmon and other types of seafood. Consequently, they have much less to lose when wild salmon stocks become depleted. When salmon stocks become extinct, as some already have in BC, independent salmon fishers stand to lose the most because large processors simply gravitate to selling other seafood products. Refitting a salmon boat for another type of fish and trying to acquire a license is an expensive proposition for captains already in dire financial straits.

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Click here to read Part 2 in this 4 part series . . .