December 13, 2012
December 3, 2012
By Ian Roberts
In the late 1990s, preacher Steve Atkinson removed gravel from his newly acquired property on Jameson Road in Nanaimo. The deep hole that remained figuratively and literally spawned an idea – fill it with water and fish.
Steve approached Vancouver Island University’s (VIU) Fisheries and Aquaculture faculty to buy some trout, and they introduced him to staff at Marine Harvest Canada (MHC).
And so began Steve’s career in aquaculture.
Dr. Andrew Forsythe, MHC’s Freshwater Director at that time, encouraged Steve, also a trained chef, to purchase farm-raised Chinook from the company for smoking. “My involvement in fish farming began with Marine Harvest when I started smoking and
selling salmon at the Tsawwassen, Swartz Bay and Nanaimo Ferry Terminals,” Steve recalls, “and it was a great success and expanded to markets in China.”
At the time, small amounts of trout, salmon and sturgeon were being successfully raised at his homestead and this led to another great idea. Steve, Andrew and Wayne Gorrie at PR Aqua Supplies Ltd. realized that the spring fed rural property would be a prime spot for a “model farm” – a place where nearby students could receive ‘hands on’ fish farming experience as well as providing a research and development facility for PR Aqua.
When Steve sold his smoked salmon stores in 2008, he worked to make the ‘model farm’ dream a reality and searched for private and government funding.
His efforts paid off.
This year, the federal government’s Aquaculture Innovation and Market Access Program announced its commitment to partially fund a 100 tonne recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) at the property. The 1.4 million dollar facility has also received public and private funding including support from the Province’s Agriculture Innovation Fund, the National Research Council, the Interprovincial Partnership for Sustainable Freshwater Aquaculture Development, PR Aqua, VIU and MHC.
Construction is now underway and “Taste of BC” will produce 2 kilogram steelhead trout for local markets starting in 2013.
Steve is very thankful for the help he’s received from Marine Harvest. “Without the help of people like Dr. Forsythe, Dave Ashcroft and Philip Redmond, I wouldn’t have been able to make the transition to aquaculture,’ Steve says and adds, smiling, “these people have also become friends.”
“I’m a chef by trade, preacher by profession and fish farmer by default,” Steve says with a laugh.
May 16, 2012
By Gina Forsyth
Kyle Girgan’s aquaculture career has taken him to two countries – Canada and Norway – and provided varied opportunities, all with Marine Harvest. As a Fish Technician at Sayward South Hatchery for the past seven months, Kyle enjoys the challenges and successes of feeding fish that weigh less than ½ a gram.
“I started in processing, then worked on the sites and now I’m at a hatchery so I’m working my way backward in the fish’s life cycle”, he said with a laugh.
Kyle was introduced to the industry while abroad, after extending a trip to visit family in Norway. He worked for Marine Harvest Norway in a processing plant for three years and also worked with cod and halibut. Upon returning to Canada in 2005, Kyle worked at
Georgie Lake and took aquaculture courses at Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo, when he began doing presentations to high school students about the industry, something he continues to do. He also worked on a sea site and most recently at the hatchery in Ocean Falls, which he describes as a “magical” and “special” place.
“I’m so thankful for the opportunity I’ve had to work with the world-class people at Marine Harvest, particularly here in BC,” said Kyle.
Kyle was born in Yellowknife, in the Northwest Territories, and completed high school in Kitimat in the early 1990s. His family was a mobile one. Kyle and his fiancée Amanda, a high school teacher, are planning a December wedding. They live in Nanaimo and enjoy exploring the area with their five year old dog, Lulu, a border collie cross.
December 13, 2011
Ian Roberts (MHC’s Communication Manager) stopped by Vancouver Island University last month to award Michelle Bluhm the Marine Harvest Salmon Aquaculture Scholarship. This endowment is valued at $1500 and awarded annually to a 2nd year Fisheries and Aquaculture student. Michelle was very pleased to have received the award and thanked MHC very much for the “much needed” assistance to her studies. She was also thrilled to have worked as a summer student at Mahatta West farm as well and asked Ian to pass along a big “HELLO” to all staff in the Quatsino area.
North Island College student, Michelle Douglas, was thrilled to have recently received the Bob Minkler Memorial Bursary from Dean Dobrinsky (Human Resources Director at MHC). Michelle wrote “Thank you very much for helping to make it possible for me to reach my education goals!”
To learn more about the Bob Minkler Memorial Bursary and other scholarships that MHC funds, please visit http://www.marineharvestcanada.com/careers_scholarships.php
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
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
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.
“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 www.viu.ca
July 27, 2011
Thanks to a $211,000 in-kind donation of freshwater equipment from Marine Harvest, the Sturgeon Centre at Vancouver Island University (VIU) in Nanaimo is well on its way to meeting its mandate of supporting and fostering white sturgeon for future use in aquaculture as well as facilitating their conservation.
The donation of several surplus five, eight and ten foot round tanks last summer are used for the first feeding of sturgeon fry. “These tanks are integral to the operation of the freshwater system,” said Don Tillapaugh, Director of the International Centre for Sturgeon Studies at VIU.
There are currently three year classes of sturgeon in the tanks donated by Marine Harvest, ranging from 2008 to 2010.
“This crucial support from Marine Harvest is generous, timely and very important,” said Don.
The costs of building construction went up significantly between 2004 and completion in 2009, he explained. Money had to be reallocated from what was budgeted for tanks to cover the increase in construction costs. Although this isn’t unusual with a project of this magnitude, it left the Sturgeon Centre with a deficit of tanks that was filled by the company.
The Sturgeon Centre has five labs devoted to a variety of research initiatives that focus on the conservation and protection of this ancient species. The juvenile rearing room is currently operational with brood rearing to be up and running soon. By the end of the summer, three additional research labs will have come online as well.
Our dual purpose applied research focuses on both facilitation sturgeon conservation as well as the potential development of the species as a human food source, explained Don. A goal of the Centre is to become knowledge and innovation hub for sturgeon. Our research will produce peerreviewed publications with concrete outcomes, he added.
The Canadian Foundation for Innovation, the BC Knowledge Development Fund as well as the Island Coastal Economic Trust all financially supported the Sturgeon Centre as well.
December 21, 2010
A variety of initiatives, projects, internal policies, and relationships are all contributing to the continued development of a motivated and productive workforce for Marine Harvest Canada.
A current trend has seen Marine Harvest benefit from the recent economic downturn that has hit other sectors of the local economy, said Human Resources Director Ken Crewe. We’re seeing more applications than in the past and the overall quality of applicants has been improving, he said.
“People who might not have considered aquaculture in the past bring a diversity of skills. And younger people are looking to aquaculture for the opportunity it provides to build a long-term career,” said Ken. Lack of previous aquaculture experience does not disqualify candidates. If someone has a positive attitude, is willing to learn, and works well with others, that’s key. The hands-on skills can be taught to people who have the mindset that will make them successful, explained Ken.
Developing and maintaining relationships is also an essential part of a strong human resources department. Our relationship with Vancouver Island University’s Fisheries and Aquaculture program grows every year, commented Ken. Marine Harvest hires summer students and also offers comprehensive site tours to first year students giving them a first-hand look at the opportunities that are available within the industry.
Earlier this year, Kelly Osborne, Production Manager for the Broughton area farms, launched an initiative to hire locally whenever possible – from communities like Port McNeill and Alert Bay. He was successful in hiring 6 full-time and several casual employees from nearby communities and his effort has garnered positive feedback from the Regional District of Mount Waddington. This type of community support for aquaculture is critical for maintaining our social license, said Ken.
Another exciting human resources project that is being launched in November in collaboration with the Kwakiutl Band will provide three months of on-the-job training for three entry-level fish tech positions who will then revert to being casual employees. This formalized agreement is a relatively risk-free way for Band members to learn whether aquaculture is right for them and provides Marine Harvest with a pool of job-ready people who can be called on as needed or fill full-time vacancies as they become available.
On the training front, two new training courses specific to salmon farming were recently introduced in partnership with the Centre for Aquatic Health Sciences (CAHS). These courses will be very beneficial to staff who may not have had previous education in fisheries or biology. It will help provide all production staff have a common knowledge base with respect to salmon farming and supports staff with developing their career within the Company.
Marine Harvest will continue to put a focus on recruiting the right people and helping them to develop. “We put a lot of investment into employee training.” said Ken. “This is something that sets us apart from our competitors and allows us to promote from within whenever possible, giving our staff the opportunity to grow their career with us.”
November 12, 2009
“The best decision I’ve made in years.” That’s how Andrew Dukes describes the choice he made to leave the restaurant industry seven years ago and join the Port Hardy Processing Plant (PHPP).
“I wouldn’t go back to cooking for anything,” he said.
Andrew’s job as back up lead hand involves programming plant computers and staff organization. He also works on the processing line.
After certifying as a Red Seal Chef through Malaspina College (now Vancouver Island University), and Camosun College, Andrew wanted employment that offered benefits and stability, unusual in food service. He found both when he answered a newspaper ad.
Andrew was born in Liverpool, England, and came to Canada on October 31, 1972. The family settled in Nanaimo, where his parents still live, but Andrew moved to Port Hardy in 1987.
Away from work, Andrew loves camping with wife Kellie in their new trailer. Atluck Lake near Zeballos is a favorite place. Tia, their 14 year old Norwegian Elkhound, and two year old Yorkie Poo, Pickle, round out the family. Andrew has been a volunteer firefighter for 12 years. Attending one meeting with a friend was all it took for him to realize his interest. He also continues to enjoy cooking.
May 27, 2009 will always be memorable for Andrew. It’s the day he became a Canadian citizen in a ceremony held in Campbell River. “It’s something I should have done years ago,” he commented, adding that he has no desire to leave Port Hardy, Canada or Marine Harvest.
By Gina Forsyth
December 10, 2008
MHC was pleased to award the first recipient of a new scholarship at Vancouver Island University in November.
The “Marine Harvest Salmon Aquaculture Scholarship” was awarded to Michael Legge, a degree student in the Fisheries and Aquaculture program at VIU (he already has an F&A diploma). Ken Crewe (on right), Human Resources Director at MHC, was on hand to deliver the $1500 scholarship.
A dinner of salmon (donated by MHC) was enjoyed by all, especially the students, who admitted they were already tired of KD!