Future of seafood production in BC
By Linda Hiemstra, on behalf of Comox Valley Economic Development
June 1, 2016
Historically, the seafood we eat has come from both wild capture fisheries and aquaculture production. The natural bounty of the seas, lakes and rivers has been harvested for millennia, providing a great variety of fish and shellfish. Plentiful fish stocks were one of the reasons Europeans were initially drawn to Canada. In BC, the seasonal runs of Pacific salmon have been fished commercially since 1829 and were a key component in the diet of indigenous people. Aquaculture’s long history dates as far back as 4000 years ago with the culture of fish in China. Clam gardens, areas where BC First Nations cultivated shellfish, date back several centuries and in the early 1900s oysters and manila clams were introduced to BC for culture.
Both wild capture and aquaculture have contributed significantly to the economy of British Columbia. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, the total BC seafood production wholesale value in 2014 was $1,439 million, with wild capture contributing $901 million and aquaculture $538 million. In the wild fishery, salmon had the highest wholesale value at $310 million. Groundfish had a wholesale value of $270 million and shellfish $216 million. Aquaculture wholesale value was led by salmon at $442 million and cultured shellfish at $56 million.
BC exports more than 90% of the seafood it produces to over 74 markets with 55% of exports going to the US. In 2014, these exports were valued at $981 million. Top value exports are cultured Atlantic salmon, crabs, wild sockeye salmon, shrimp, prawns and geoduck.
In response to the increased demand for seafood, the Organization of Economic Co-operation Development (OECD) expects global aquaculture production to increase by 35% by 2022. The wild capture fisheries output is expected to rise no more than 5%. Currently, over 50% of the world’s seafood comes from aquaculture but this is expected to increase to 75% with 15 years.
BC contributes significantly to Canadian seafood exports which now total almost $5 billion annually. Although the US is BC’s largest trading partner, followed by China, opportunities exist for growth in other areas, particularly the United Kingdom and Europe. In a recent news brief, the Canadian Council of Fisheries and Aquaculture Ministers stated their support for expanding Canada’s global seafood market.
However, with limits on the number of fishing licenses and tight management of resources, BC’s wild capture fisheries will likely remain an important but relatively stable component of our seafood production. The area with the potential for greatest growth is aquaculture.
The greatest factor for the future success of the wild fisheries and aquaculture industries is their ability to harvest and culture seafood in a sustainable manner. The Fisheries and Aquaculture Ministers expect further development of the Canadian aquaculture sector using ecologically sound methods while respecting the environment and commercial, recreational and Indigenous fisheries.
In BC, both wild capture and aquaculture industries are united in their commitment to sustainably produce seafood. They actively support conservation and sustainable use of seafood and the preservation of our aquatic resources.
Join the conversation with #BCShellFest & #BCSeafoodExpo
Manager and Communications
Comox Valley Economic Development and Tourism
Office: 250-334-2427 Ext: 233