British Columbia

Introducing Prince Rupert: Scallop capital of the continent?

Nearly 15 years in the making, a commercial scallop farm is hoping to pick up where the now defunct commercial salmon industry left off in Prince Rupert.

'While this is a company, it's really about spawning an industry here'

The need for a new way of harvesting seafood came about 15 years ago as the commercial salmon industry began to crumble. (Carolina de Ryk/ CBC News)

Coastal Shellfish, a First Nations-owned company, cracked open the scallop market this week with the first commercial sales from its processing plant in Prince Rupert.

Those leading the burgeoning industry say they have high hopes the move will mean a new economic opportunity for the city and the Coast Tsimshian people.

The company has already been selling scallop larvae to shellfish farms around North America but now live, adult scallops are available in Prince Rupert. The first buyer was Fukasaku, a local sushi restaurant.

"It's been kind of a dream for coastal First Nations to establish an economy based on the ocean," Coastal Shellfish CEO Michael Uehara told the CBC's Carolina de Ryk.

 "While this is a company, it's really about spawning an industry here."

Sustainable sales

Sustainable farming is an important part of Coastal Shellfish's ethos.

An ethos made all the more significant because the need for a shellfish industry in the city arose after over-fishing crushed the local salmon processing industry.

In fact, the location where the company now farms scallop was once a fish processing plant.

Gone are the fish scales, flashing knives and canning lines, instead the site is filled with huge drums of pulsing, microscopic scallop larvae.

Provan Crump (left), a shellfish expert and hatchery manager, recently relocated from Hawaii to help Indigenous nations on the north coast develop a new industry: Shellfish farming. (Carolina de Ryk/ CBC News)

Hatchery manager Provan Crump says he feels pride now that the sustainable farming process is making sales.

"We're in a really great state, we've got full scale production which we're happy with, all of our filtration systems are working well and I feel very confident."

The global market

When the hatchery launched in 2011 there was a growing global demand for scallops and supply was low.

The most recent data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations shows that export demand is now slowing as China increases its domestic production of the shellfish.

With files from Carolina de Ryk and Daybreak North