The marvelous BC shellfish and Seafood Festival allowed a group of travel writers on this hosted trip to see not only how seafood is prepared, but also how it is raised. Fanny Bay Oysters opened up their doors for us to come and take a gander. Most everyone has heard of Fanny Bay Oysters and Brian Yip, manager, said that they are part of the Taylor Shellfish family of farms. Fanny Bay Oysters wear a lot of hats. They are growers, processors and International exporters of farm raised Pacific oysters and Manila clams. Located on Baynes Sound, on Vancouver Island, we were able to view the area that offers some of the world’s most nutrient rich growing areas for oysters and clams. Here, Fanny Bay has been increasing oyster and clam production every year since 1984 making it the largest shellfish farm in Canada.
Brian Yip shared that the land they use is owned by the Government and leased to the company. They hatch, process and market their clams. In this protected area, they are able to grow year-round. The hatchery is located in Hawaii where the weather is warm. After the oysters and clams have been started at the hatchery, they come to Vancouver Island to grow bigger. Some oysters are grown on the beach and harvested by hand and others are grown in deep water suspension trays and others have a combination of starting in the trays and finishing on the beach.
Once harvested, some are sold in the shell, and others are shucked by workers. When it comes to shucking the oysters, Brian said that the shuckers working at Fanny Bay “are artists.”
As far as distribution Brian said that one-third of their produce goes to Canada, one-third to the US and one-third overseas and that is usually to Asia. It was fascinating to watch the different techniques used and actually see the oysters on the beach and view the submerged trays offshore.
The same day we toured Fanny Bay, we also toured Manatee Holdings, a geoduck farm and Eric Gant, who is the world’s foremost expert on the geoduck clam aquaculture . In 1977, Eric Gant helped to pioneer the wild Geoduck Clam Fishery in British Columbia, Canada, plus he is a Founding Director of the Underwater Harvesters’ Association (UHA). The UHA consists of all the licensed Geoduck Fisherman in B. C. Manatee Holdings Ltd. helped pioneer the wild Geoduck Clam Fishery in British Columbia (BC), Canada and they harvest Geoduck clams and sea cucumbers from the wild fisheries with a 75% profit margin. Manatee Holdings also owns its own shellfish hatchery and has substantial sub tidal aquaculture tenures. “We create the most environmental beneficial food operation on land. We are looking to blend agriculture and aquaculture. To fertilize the fields.”
Manatee Holdings is comprised of eight acres with 20 hatcheries of underwater aquaculture. Eric Gant said for funding they would give up land. They are seeking funding to expand and to help meet the growing demand. Mr. Gant was quite passionate about the fact that things cannot go on as they are. “Fisheries are collapsing. Thirty-six species have been driven into extinction in Canada alone. More is coming, urchins, sea urchins and seahorses world wide. It is a socioeconomic pandemic, but there is a cure to solve damage to the ecology in the ocean.”
But, Eric Gant warned, “If you push a species too far, you can’t bring them bac, and there is no need for it.”
As for the geoduck he said that they seek the healthiest species for their farms. With two ponds the sunlight generates algae and the shellfish feed on the algae. There is much more to this technical farm, but Eric Gant said, “We gently support Mother Nature.”
Besides supplying geoducks to the market, they are also restocking the ocean as well.
As a farmer’s wife I was fascinated by the whole sea farm concept and can easily grasp the fact that in the wild there is not enough to support the population. This is the same concept as hunting or gathering wild fruits and vegetables. Without cultivation, there is not enough in nature to support the population. Like farmers everywhere, these shellfish farms are helping feed the world.