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Kitasoo Seafoods Featured in Smithsonian Magazine Article on Sea Cucumber

The Kitasoo/Xai’xais have been eating giant red sea cucumbers, Parastichopus californicus, for centuries. Photo by Ed Bierman

Kitasoo Seafoods, Kitasoo Development Corporation director Larry Greba, and Kitasoo fisheries shellfish biologist Sandie Hankewich were recently featured in the Smithsonian Magazine. Greba (who is also a director at Coast Funds) spoke with journalist Lorraine Boissoneault about the mysterious and valuable sea cucumber and the role the Kitasoo/Xai’xais First Nation plays in ensuring its population is properly managed.

The sea cucumber is one of several wild species sustainably harvested by Kitasoo Seafoods. The business is owned and operated by the Kitasoo/Xai’xais First Nation and funded in part by the Coast Funds Economic Development Fund.

It is not enough to just be focused on expanding and generating revenue.  The long term impact of operations has to be a factor.

Sustainable harvesting of the sea cucumber and its the impact on the environment and future generations underpin all decisions made at Kitasoo Seafoods. “We look forward in everything we do with the plant,” says Ben Robinson, CEO of the Kitasoo Development Corporation. “It is not enough to just be focused on expanding and generating revenue.  The long term impact of operations has to be a factor.”

Is the Mysterious Sea Cucumber Slipping Out of Our Grasp?

The slimy, tasty enigmas have long been over-harvested. An indigenous community in Canada could be close to finding a sustainable solution

By Lorraine Boissoneault

Full text appears on the Smithsonian website

Larry Greba stood in front of the seafood processing facility with slime dripping from his fingers. Dangling across his two hands was a flat creature—the source of

Kitasoo Development Corporation director Larry Greba displays a processed sea cucumber.

the slime. One side was all pink flesh, like a cartoonishly long tongue. The other bore tooth-like protuberances, called ossicles, above speckled reddish black skin. It would’ve been hard to say which end of the animal was the front if it weren’t for the whiskery, tentacle-like mouth appendage hanging from one end.

 At around a foot long, the dead sea cucumber looked something like a Lovecraftian sea monster. Only this particular monster happened to be edible, a delicacy even, and exorbitantly priced: sea cucumbers sell for around $16 per pound for the pink muscle, and $22 per pound for the lumpy skin. Not bad for something that eats dirty sand and spits out its guts when scared.

“It’s actually very tasty,” Greba said of the muscle, which he compared to the taste of clams. He uses the skin for seasoning soups and stir-fries, though what exactly the flavor was most similar to he couldn’t say.

Greba is the director of the Kitasoo Development Corporation, located in Klemtu, a 500-person indigenous town tucked up on the coast of British Columbia. The town is mainly populated by the Kitasoo/Xai’xais band, which formed in the 1860s when the two distinct nations (Kitasoo and Xai’xais) came together. That overcast September afternoon, Greba was demonstrating the sea cucumber cleaning process with a specimen from an experimental fishery—one set up and now maintained by the Kitasoo/Xai’xais band and commercial harvesters to study sustainable harvesting rates.

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