Great Bear Scallops Wins Sustainability Award from BC Food and Beverage

As of 2019, Coastal Shellfish employs approximately 40 employees, many from local First Nations communities. Photo Courtesy Great Bear Scallops.

Great Bear Scallops has been making waves in the seafood industry. The Metlakatla Nation owned-and-operated company recently received the 2020 Sustainability Award at the BC Food and Beverage annual awards show. The award was given in recognition of the company’s “leadership in sustainability and [contributions] to helping the environment.”

Great Bear Scallops received the Sustainability Award from BC Food and Beverage to recognize its leadership in sustainability. Photo courtesy Great Bear Scallops.

The scallop business is part of Coastal Shellfish Corporation located in Prince Rupert, Coast Tsimshian territory. The company combines modern technology and aquaculture best practices with the traditional knowledge of the Coast Tsimshian people who have lived and harvested in the area for millennia.

Sustainability is at the core of their work. “Our mission is not just to restore economies for First Nations, but to restore the ocean as well,” says Michael Uehara, Coastal Shellfish CEO and President in a Coastal First Nations article. “It’s about building a sustainable fishery, but it’s also about food security and long-term restoration.”

Our mission is not just to restore economies for First Nations, but to restore the ocean as well. It’s about building a sustainable fishery, but it’s also about food security and long-term restoration.

The Coastal Shellfish website describes the importance of taking care of the environment in which the scallops are raised: “Scallops, and other bivalves are often consumed raw, so it is critically important that the shellfish are growing in clean waters which are safe from pollutants at all times.” To ensure a safe environment for the scallops, they are raised in a remote site accessible only by boat or floatplane.

“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 in 2019 after the company achieved its first commercial sales.

Great Bear Scallops seeds, grows, and harvests all of the shellfish in the local waters around Prince Rupert, and also processes everything locally. Photo courtesy Great Bear Scallops.]

Since then, the scallops have been popping up on menus across the province, like the Naramata Inn, and showing up on foodie blogs like Good Life Vancouver. Prince Rupert based Wheelhouse Brewing even produced a Great Bear Scallop stout.

The BC Food and Beverage award show, which was held virtually, due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, took place on Sept 24, 2020. Guests included Lana Popham, BC’s Minister of Agriculture, and Dr. Bonnie Henry, Provincial Health Officer.

Between 2012 and 2019, Coast Funds’ board of directors approved funding for four projects totalling $2.3 million to Metlakatla Nation to develop, expand and operate Coastal Shellfish Corporation.