Monday, March 22, 2010

3-Day Fish Farm Tour of Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Over the past weekend I was given the opportunity to go on a multi-day tour of several fish farms around Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. Over the course of three days, we visited a scallop farm, an oyster farm, a salmon farm, a processing plant, and a unique research facility which will be discussed later.

The trip was organized as a class field trip for an aquaculture course that I am currently taking at the University of Victoria. Seven students including myself left from UVic on Thursday morning to drive up the highway to Island Scallops, the first stop on our tour. There, the hatchery manager gave us a guided tour, showing us how their operation raises scallops from fertilization all the way to market size. Next, we drove to Deep Bay where we were given a tour of a floating upwelling (FLUPSY) hatchery system, as well as grow-out facilities for oysters. The owner of the company then showed us his processing areas and concluded the tour with several oysters on the half-shell for each of us!
Cyrus Rocks- Marine Harvest Canada
After an overnight in Courtenay, the whole class rose early and drove to Campbell River, where we boarded a boat that ferried us out to Cyrus Rocks, a salmon farm owned and operated by the Norwegian company Marine Harvest. There, the production crews gave us a comprehensive view of salmon farming as an industry, as well as covered daily operations; we left with some food for thought regarding the public perception of this controversial industry and the role of propaganda and misinformation.

Walcan Processing Centre- Quadra Island

Next, we visited the Walcan Processing Plant on Quadra Island, where we saw farmed salmon being processed for market. We observed filleting, as well as whole-fish preparation: this was the closest thing to a slaughterhouse that I have ever seen, but it was fascinating to see the balance of machinery and man-power. This processing plant was highly efficient: fish left the facility on ice, ready to be transported to market, less then 5 minutes after entering the building.

After a long drive from Campbell River, we reached our destination for the evening: Kyuquot Sound. There, our professor from the course owns and operates a research facility unlike any other. This system utilizes “Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture” (IMTA), a practice of growing several different species in one location. For example, our professor grew sablefish in net-pens, with scallops and mussels downstream from the fish, and finally kelps downstream from the shellfish. In this way, the particulate nutrients released by the fish are taken up by the shellfish, and the dissolved nutrients from both can be taken up by the kelps. Essentially, the manager does not perceive the nutrients as ‘waste’ but rather as an additional ‘resource’ that can be utilized to bring several other commercially-valuable species to market.

All in all, this trip was an invaluable education into the aquaculture activities happening in my own backyard. With the exposure to these facilities and operations, I can now begin to gain a better understanding of possible future endeavors in this region of the world, both for the industry and for myself.

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