Last weekend, on behalf of the Vancouver Aquarium Ocean Wise™ program, I attended a celebration of locally produced seafood at the B.C. Shellfish and Seafood Festival in Comox, Vancouver Island. The festival spans over two weeks with events including shellfish farm tours, informational workshops, cooking demonstrations, chef competitions, gala dinners, and family festivals.
Farmed shellfish are some of the most sustainable seafood available. They are filter feeders which can help to improve the ecosystem by removing excess nutrients from the water (i.e. they are not fed commercial feed since they eat algae present in the ocean water). Harvesting farmed shellfish causes little damage since they are either grown in trays or racks suspended in the water column which does not disturb the ocean floor, or harvested from the beach with hand rakes, allowing the sandy habitat to recover quickly. I had the opportunity to visit a few sustainable seafood operations including Mac’s Oysters, Fanny Bay Oysters, and Manatee Holdings Hatchery who collectively produce oysters, clams, and geoduck.
I was also invited to be a speaker at two sustainable seafood workshop sessions. I discussed the role of the Ocean Wise program in creating a market demand for sustainable seafood in Canada, and provided scientific background on the sustainability of geoducks during a cooking demonstration and tasting with Ocean Wise partner, chef Ned Bell.
Dr. John Nightingale, president and CEO of the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre, discussed global ocean issues and solutions. This year was the first time the B.C. Shellfish and Seafood Festival added a workshop component and it was great to see the seafood industry and scientists come together to discuss important ocean issues on aquaculture and sustainability.
Not to be missed was the ninth annual chef’s gala dinner in which chefs collaborated to serve a six course seafood dinner. Ocean Wise partners chef Trevor Bird from Fable, chef James Walt from Araxi, chef Ned Bell from YEW seafood + bar and chef Patrick McMurray from Starfish Oyster Bed & Grill were among those who ensured that the chef’s gala was an unforgettable sustainable seafood dinner by the beach. I left with a stomach full of sidestripe shrimp, octopus, oysters, and albacore tuna – just some of the sustainable seafood that B.C. has to offer.
Last but not least was Comox By The Sea, the family-friendly day festival at Filberg Park. Guests were treated to music, seafood tastings from various local restaurants and suppliers, and information booths including our Ocean Wise table. Here I was called to be a judge in the chowder challenge. For the second year in a row, Ocean Wise partner Beez Kneez Catering impressed judges with their chowder’s winning combination of texture, taste, appearance, and Ocean Wise ingredients, beating out four other restaurants. As the winner of the B.C. Shellfish and Seafood Festival chowder challenge, Beez Kneez is now a finalist in the upcoming Ocean Wise annual Chowder Chowdown taking place at the Vancouver Aquarium this November.
Whether you’re looking to learn, explore or indulge, the B.C. Shellfish and Seafood Festival is a great way to connect with local chefs and sustainable seafood options available right here in beautiful British Columbia.
Blog post by Claire Li Loong, Ocean Wise coordinator at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre.