A Chat With Environmental Indspire Winner Richard Stewart Hardy

Richard Stewart Hardy's Pentlatch Seafoods Ltd. has been working diligently for seven years with Canadian agencies such as Environment Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the Department of Fisheries & Oceans to develop an environmental stewardship program which has resulted in dramatic improvements in the water quality of the traditional territorial waters of the K’ómoks First Nation on Vancouver Island.

Hardy’s efforts in conjunction with his company’s in the area of public awareness and the education of water quality has earned the company two Environmental Awards from the City of Comox in 2006 and 2007 and was selected as “Business of the Year” by the British Columbia Shellfish Growers Association. In 2012, Hardy has been selected as a National Aboriginal Achievement (Indspire) Award recipient. The awards were given out on February 24 at a gala that will be broadcast on APTN and GlobalTV on April 13.

In an interview with Indian Country Today Media Network Hardy described his career, his passion for his indigenous community and how it felt to be recognized.

What is it that you do?

I am the general manager of Pentlatch Seafoods Ltd., a corporation fully owned by the K’ómoks First Nation on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. We grow Manila clams and Pacific oysters. We got started in 2003 as part of the Environmental Stewardship Program, which involved a lot of water quality monitoring for us to open up sites in which we have traditionally harvested shellfish.

We got into the shellfish agriculture industry and planted millions of Manila clam seeds and millions of Pacific oyster seeds and began a huge marketing campaign in 2008 with our own brand name and our own logo.

For what were you specifically recognized?

Back in 2003 which we took the concept of the K’ómoks First Nation, whose people were trying to reestablish their cultural and economic ties in order to harvest shellfish from the beaches that we used to harvest at one time through the Department of Fisheries. A lot of those opportunities were taken away from the K’ómoks First Nation. For us it was about reestablishing our cultural and economic ties.

How do you feel about reestablishing these ties?

I think all of this hard work and effort has paid off. At the end of the day we are protecting as well as providing opportunities for youth down the road to pursue economic interests. The biggest opportunity for our nation in years to come will be Geoduck Agriculture (pronounced Gooey Duck), also known as a Giant Clam Agriculture.

Seventy percent of British Columbia’s shellfish agriculture happens right there in our own backyard. A lot of the great sites that we had harvested for sustenance and economic purposes were tenured out by the province throughout the 1970s and 1980s. For us to acquire sites and to get involved in this industry was a huge undertaking. There was a lot of consultation with the K’ómoks First Nation and municipal, provincial and federal government agencies. What came of all of this was that the K’ómoks First Nation could sign a MOU (memorandum of understanding) for 65 hectares (approximately 160 acres.)

From that we then turned around and went through the Shellfish Aquaculture tenure application process. For us to go through the tenured operation process we had to address water-quality issues with Environment Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the Department of Fisheries, and the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fish. This is where the environmental stewardship program came in to play. It was us going out and monitoring water ourselves and going back to the federal government and saying, Look, this water isn't as bad as you are saying it is.

What has been your experience?

I was very ignorant about the shellfish industry and the amount of hard work and effort it would take to go through this consultation process. We had to make zoning changes. This is not something that just happened overnight—it took about a year and a half to two years.

We have a variety of stakeholders who believe their rights are more important than First Nations rights and we had to deal with and address those issues. We had people who were vehemently opposed to our practicing shellfish agriculture, even though we have harvested for millennia. We had to deal with public forums and open houses. We had to try and litigate and remediate their issues.

How do you feel about being recognized?

It is really quite humbling. I look at this as not just an achievement for myself but an achievement for my family, my wife, my son, my parents and my friends. It is also for the K’ómoks First Nation and Pentlatch Seafoods Ltd.

I have never put in this hard work and effort to try and get self-recognition. It is about providing opportunities down the road for our youth. I would hope that all of these activities and achievements that I was able to accomplish would inspire not just aboriginal youth and our community, but inspire British Columbia and our nation as well.