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Fish farming is an industry composed of diverse parts

Bill Pirie works at Walcan Seafoods, a processor in the fish farming industry of the British Columbia coast.

As he explained it, the industry works has three primary parts ? production in ocean pens, harvesting, which includes primary processing, and marketing.

"Marketing delivers fresh farmed fish to locations around the country and the world. What we are doing is harvesting and processing."

Pirie said Walcan enjoys a long working relationship with Paradise Bay Sea Farms, a producer on the British Columbia coast.

Walcan harvests Atlantic salmon from Paradise Bay nets. "We process fish for commercial fishermen. We are involved in both farmed and commercial fish. We used to be involved in the farming business until 1985. It became too costly and we got out.

"We put the energy into custom processing farmed salmon products. It includes a smoking operation. The Atlantic is an oily product that turns out nicely in smoking. We send this product all over the world. "

Pirie said he believes any First Nation in the coastal waters could make a pro-active effort and find a partner to produce fish.

He added that, "Fish farming in BC is at an infancy stage. The experience of people on the coast is being wasted when there is so much potential in this industry."

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Pirie said the production base could increase to fill growing demand for fresh salmon. "BC growers and producers will never be competing amongst themselves. The competition is with growers in Chile and northern Europe. And, it seems the diet of Americans is changing to healthy meat like fresh salmon to replace beef. Growers are producing fish for a market that is growing around the world."

Larry Greba is the marine biologist on the Klemtu fish farm operation put together by Kitasoo First Nation. These pristine British Columbia waters north of Bella Coola once had a thriving fishing industry, he said. The wild fish are in a state of flux and fishing seasons are too short to make a living. The opposite is true for farmed fish. The consumer favors eating fresh salmon year-round and farmed fish can supply the demand.

"Our team is keeping a low profile. We are conscious of negative attitudes while we are exploring economic development for Kitasoo through the production of farmed fish. The Kitasoo and Nutreco joint venture operates in a prime growing area. We are planning to expand the joint venture into a processing plant. We are creating jobs for the local community."

The Kitasoo Band Council has enjoyed the elder counsel of Percy Starr who won the Order of Canada for his contribution to "improving everyday life in a distant corner of this great land."

Starr's direction led to the joint venture with Nutreco. The immediate goal is to 50 jobs and pour badly needed money into the community.

"Kitasoo entered the joint venture with Nutreco because this company had experience with remote communities working on fish farms in Chile, South America. They knew how to build an industry in the wilderness by transferring skills to the local people. The bottom line is dollars and cents, however, and to enter the distant areas it takes investment."

Production began in 1999 with six people employed, four from Klemtu. "We have Nutreco managers and staff from Klemtu grooming for management. We are building a staff skill set and we are completely equipped for containing problems.

"We have a lot of pride in the results we get from the BC environmental assessment process. It builds acceptance of the project amongst the people in Klemtu and other interests."

This semester Nutreco is funding education for 16 Klemtu residents at North Island College at Port Hardy to transfer aquaculture skills to folks who long ago mastered commercial fishery.