Because Oak Bay Marine Group was started by a fisherman, and because sport fishing has long been an important part of our business offerings, we have always tried to treat our oceans and the wildlife they contain with care. “It has been some time since most humans lived as hunter-gatherers – with one important exception. Fish are the last wild animal that we hunt in large numbers. And yet, we may be the last generation to do so…. On average, people eat four times as much fish now than they did in 1950.” (Gaia Vince, BBC.) When Oak Bay Marine Group was started by Bob Wright there were about 3 billion people (1) on this planet; today there are well over 7 billion. (2) How can we help ensure there are fish for all?
Hunting and gathering have transformed into farming and ranching, yet fish are still largely harvested by fishing. While we expect our beef, pork and tomatoes to come from farms, we expect the fish we eat to be plucked from wild, fresh, icy waters and are unsure of quality, freshness and sustainability if we hear otherwise. Living on the West Coast, with open net pen fish farms in our backyards, we are well aware of the concerns with fish farming in the Pacific Ocean. But what if these common problems were eliminated or reduced to an acceptable level? What if the farming was actually beneficial to the environment?
Environmentally beneficial farming has been the norm for years with mussels, oysters, and clams. These shellfish “clean the water, remove nitrogen, accelerate denitrification, enhance water clarity, promote eelgrass survival, and provide excellent habitat for a myriad of juvenile fish and crustaceans.” (3) And farming shellfish is something we do well on the West Coast. At the Marina Restaurant our mussels come from Salt Spring Island, our clams from the Discovery Islands, and our oysters come from little farms up and down Vancouver Island, from Ladysmith to Fanny Bay, and out to other islands like Cortes.
But fin fish are admittedly different than mussels, and require a different approach. Because trout are freshwater they are a natural fit for raising inland in contained systems - this has been proven viable and sustainable for years. Lois Lake is a man-made lake and Steelhead have been raised there since 1973. The colour of the fish’s flesh comes naturally from their non-antibiotic, hormone-free feed. Waste water is UV treated and contributes to the surrounding wetlands, and escapement risk is non-existent given the contained system. Trout are also efficient at converting feed into protein.
At the Marina Restaurant we are known for our seafood, so we try to be leaders in keeping seafood stocks at a healthy and sustainable level. Some studies suggest that salmon has recently become the highest consumed fish globally, surpassing shrimp and accounting for 1/5th of all seafood consumed. (4) With a growing population and a growing demand for seafood we’re looking for solutions. What if most (or all) the salmon we bought from the store or ordered at our favorite restaurant was farmed, but in a responsible way? What if that salmon also took less energy to produce than sirloin steak and was better for both you and the environment?
We are excited about the evolution in sustainable seafood farming, as it has positive implications for the living creatures of our oceans. Kuterra salmon is the first and only land-based salmon farm in BC, and provides a viable option for sustainable salmon farming. Atlantic salmon is the species raised by Kuterra because it is the most resilient species for this type of farming - it grows the most efficiently, is less aggressive than other salmon species and is less prone to disease. These salmon are raised without hormones, pesticides or antibiotics. Because the salmon are inland with recirculating water tanks there is no risk of harm to other marine wildlife and no risk of escapement. Water is recycled very efficiently at 98% and waste is composted instead of discharged back into the environment. In addition to using 30% less feed than their ocean counterparts, Kuterra salmon are also raised mainly on grain and soy. And most importantly the product tastes great!
The revolution in seafood farming is near and dear to our hearts at the Marina Restaurant. We are thrilled to be 100% Ocean Wise certified, and we look forward to continuing our efforts towards sustainability while creating delicious meals and memorable occasions for our customers.