Tlowitsis Nation Invests in Shellfish Aquaculture

In 2012, the Tlowitsis Nation expanded its investment in shellfish aquaculture by purchasing and expanding an existing shellfish operation and farm inventory.

Chief’s Pride Aquaculture Corporation has expanded it grow-out capabilities to be able to grow approximately 1.5 million oysters annually. Photo courtesy of Chief’s Pride Aquaculture

The new business was added to the Nation’s already existing aquaculture business, Chief’s Pride Aquaculture Corporation. Both operations are located off northeastern Vancouver Island: one at Talbot Cove on West Redonda Island, the other in the northwest bay of Twin Islands, east of Campbell River and south of Cortes Island.

The Tlowitsis Nation runs a sustainable aquaculture operation that is part of the natural marine ecosystem at Twin Islands and contributes to enhanced water quality for organisms in adjacent waters.

Today the Nation has partnered with the Marine Plan Partnership to research how the waters in their traditional territory can best support shellfish aquaculture.

Tlowitsis decided to engage marine biologist Don Tillapaugh to work with the First Nation on a two-year shellfish research project near Port Neville, on Johnstone Strait. “The idea is to study what kind of environmental characteristics are required to be successful, what causes die-off, the frequency of fouling and predation issues,” says Thomas. The information gleaned from the study will help Tlowitsis determine the feasibility of farming different types of shellfish and the infrastructure required.

A new Marine Plan Partnership article about the research project reports that the Nation’s scallops, mussels, and oysters were seeded in 2017 are on track to reach market size in a commercially-viable timeframe of two years.

“We started out with scallops the size of a quarter and now they’re the size of a baseball,” says Gina Thomas, a researcher for the Tlowitsis Shellfish Aquaculture Pilot (TSAP) project.

Chief’s Pride Aquaculture Corporation manages the growing of pacific oysters on rafts situated at the entrance to Teakerne Arm on West Redonda Island in Desolation Sound. Photo courtesy of Chief’s Pride Aquaculture

Positive research results may spur local commercial shellfish aquaculture in or near that site, and Thomas said she’d love if some of the area’s First Nations could seize that opportunity, and help increase local food production.

“This project is cutting edge for anyone who wants to know if a local shellfish industry could take off,” Thomas said. “A lot of people are watching to see what happens.”

Read more about the Tlowitsis Nation’s research project here.

Since 2008, Coast Economic Development Society approved funding Tlowitsis Nation’s shellfish aquaculture purchase and expansion totally $866,858.