A story of three grads – building a strong education foundation

December 8, 2011

By Gina Forsyth

One route into the aquaculture industry is through post-secondary education. For those individuals choosing it, Vancouver Island University’s (VIU) Fisheries and Aquaculture program in Nanaimo has provided a plethora of people with not only the theory but the practical knowledge needed to build a lasting career. Let’s meet three Marine Harvest employees who are former students to discover the contribution their alma mater played in their current jobs.

VIU provides opportunities if the freshwater side of aquaculture is your primary interest. For Lance Page, Hatchery Manager at

Lance Page

Freshwater Farms in Duncan, graduating from the two year Fisheries and Aquacultures diploma program in 1993 has given him “the confidence, contacts, and knowledge” to successfully manage Freshwater Farms hatchery in Duncan since late 2010. Prior to that, he was at United hatchery growing fry for 13 years.

“I started the program wanting to come out the other end with skills that I could put to work right away and I did,” he said. Not only that, Lance originally planned to pursue wild salmon enhancement but the program opened his eyes to aquaculture, an industry he appreciates for its variety of opportunities. 

Lance’s summer job during school breaks at a trout hatchery became permanent after graduation and launched his aquaculture career. Before landing his current management position, Lance worked at two other fresh water facilities for Stolt Sea Farm and Pan Fish.

“VIU gave me the education I needed to make the switch from a job that paid the bills to a career that also pays the bills but which allows me to work with fish, a life-long passion of mine”.

Bob Cearns came to the aquaculture industry after his shipping and receiving job at a Parksville non-profit organization was

Bob Cearns

eliminated due to a company restructuring. A childhood spent in Manitoba enjoying the outdoors made the choice of aquaculture a good fit. “I like having the opportunity to work with fish from the smolt stage through to when they’re ready for harvesting”.


During the summer break from school, Bob worked at a smolt site in the Broughton for Stolt. This opportunity gave him the chance to build on the knowledge he’d gained while doing practicums at various government and private facilities on the Central Island.


The value of the program for me was having the opportunity to not only gain knowledge in the classroom but to also experience the reality of the industry, he said. Bob reapplied to Stolt and found himself employed full time within two weeks of graduation in 2004. Campbell River North area is now Bob’s home base, where he has recently accepted a management position.

Graham Cruise, a farm technician at Koskimo Bay in the Quatsino region, chose VIU after extensive research on educational options that would allow him to be on the water, an important consideration for this self-confessed “coastal guy” who has spent nearly all his life near the ocean.

Graham Cruise

“I wanted something more specialized than a Bachelor of Science and the two year diploma program suited me very well,” he said. It prepared me well for the reality of the day to day tasks faced on the farm.

He particularly appreciated the fish biology course. It was an overview of the broad spectrum of fish, from tropical to freshwater and deep water. Graham saw samples of fish he wouldn’t have otherwise.

For more information about the opportunities at VIU, visit