Healthy Oceans. Healthy Communities.

Assessing the wild seafood supply chain on Vancouver Island

Prawn fisherman

Living Oceans is working to remove the barriers to selling locally harvested sustainable seafood in British Columbia. Approximately 80 percent of B.C.’s harvested seafood is exported to international markets. British Columbians are then obliged to buy seafood that comes from far away and was likely farmed or caught using unsustainable practices.

Our report, Sustainable Fish Secure Future: An Assessment of the Wild Seafood Supply Chain on Vancouver Island With a Focus on Local Sustainable Fisheries looks at the barriers and opportunities for local wild seafood within the regional supply chain.

Barriers to selling B.C. sustainable seafood locally include:

Government Policies

  • Provincial policies encourage the exportation of B.C. seafood
  • Federal departments’ lack of support and capacity stunt the development of small-scale fisheries
  • Government regulations hinder fishermen’s ability to direct market or process their catch
  • Federal labelling laws are weak and do not require origin of catch for domestic or international seafood commodities preventing local seafood from being distinctly marked

Social Challenges

  • Small-scale fishermen must compete with larger fleets
  • Competing with international markets makes it a challenge for local fishermen to sell directly to consumers or to set their own price
  • Fishermen feel they are hindered from marketing their catch directly, whether due to fishing season openings and closures, or due to their lack of marketing expertise
  • The seafood supply chain is a ‘black box’ where the story about the fishermen and their products are lost by the time seafood has made it to the shopper
  • Consumers are unfamiliar with certain local fisheries and their products themselves (e.g. sardines) when compared to more commonly known species such as salmon or halibut
  • Fishermen lack access to processing and cold storage facilities which restricts their ability to sell directly to consumers  

The report found that suppliers, retailers, and chefs are showing an increased willingness to market local sustainable seafood. It also found that fishermen want to sell more of their catch locally and that the public is eager to buy it.