Where most of the seafood industry deals in container loads of fish, Organic Ocean supplies comparatively small volumes of the very finest products. As second (and now third) generation fishermen, we know how great seafood should look and smell and taste and if it’s not up to our standards, we won’t sell it. This is how we’re able to provide an unconditional guarantee of satisfaction.
To limit the catch to only targeted species (and to avoid the non-targeted bycatch of vulnerable stocks), we troll salmon by hook-and-line (with species-specific lures) and harvest in terminal net fisheries (directing the catch in areas where only the targeted species is present). The five species of wild Pacific salmon – chinook, coho, sockeye, keta and pink – vary in size, colour, texture, and fat content but all share a superb taste, high protein content, and low saturated fat and high polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acid content from their diet of the rich ocean nutrients of the North Pacific.
When fishing for salmon, each fish is individually caught and bled, dressed, washed and then held in a mixture of cold sea water and ice called slush. The fish are then removed from the slush, re-washed and frozen or belly iced with sub-zero temperature flake ice sealing in the quality and freshness. The end result of this process is a product with all the consistencies of a fish just caught.
The largest of the salmon, chinook, are harvested in the Haida Gwaii (“islands on the edge of the world”), a remote archipelago located on the northwest coast of British Columbia between Vancouver Island and the State of Alaska. This fishery occurs from June through August as the chinook salmon complete the final leg of a 1,200 mile migration and four to seven year life cycle. High in fat content, chinook salmon has a well-defined, rich-flavoured flesh ranging in colour from ivory to marbled to red.
The end of the chinook season signals the beginning of the harvest of northern coho, the largest of the coho family. Unlike the other salmon species which undertake a distant migration to the mid-Pacific, the northern coho, during its three-year life cycle, stays much closer to shore. With a firm, fine-textured and full-flavoured vibrant red-orange flesh, coho salmon is coveted by chefs for grilling and broiling.
In mid to late summer, sockeye salmon are harvested in Johnstone Strait, a deep and narrow glacier-carved passage located between the east coast of Vancouver Island and the mainland of British Columbia. Sockeye salmon which range the furthest of all salmon are harvested as they migrate to the Fraser River, the largest salmon-producing river in the world. An integral part of First Nations’ traditions – the name is derived from the word for chief, “Sau-kai” – the sockeye has the most intensely red and highest oil content flesh of the five Pacific salmon species.
In the fall, keta salmon are harvested while migrating through Johnstone Straight. Feeding on ocean jellies, the finest keta is ocean caught when it is still “silver-bright” in colour and with a reddish-pink flesh that will turn white as the fish approaches and enters the river system. With a lower fat content, firm flesh and a distinctive flavor, keta appeals to those seeking a milder salmon taste.
Every second year marks the return of the Fraser River pink salmon, the smallest and most abundant of the salmon species. Harvested by both troll and net, the pink salmon has a light rose pink flesh and a mild delicate flavor and is the most economical alternative of the wild salmon.
While salmon farming was originally touted as a savior that would mitigate declining wild catches, there is a significant global protein loss with piscivorous (fish-eating) species like farmed salmon. Comparatively inefficient in their conversion of the pellets of ground-up fishmeal and oils, farmed salmon mask unsustainable wild capture fisheries from where the feeds are sourced. Unlike wild salmon whose natural red-coloured flesh results from a diet of small crustaceans and fish which feed upon carotenoid-producing microalgae, the flesh of farmed salmon would be a light grey colour if the farmed salmon weren’t fed an additive (with the flesh colour drawn from a “SalmoFan” which resembles a collection of paint chips). Farmed salmon are also fed antibiotics to fight disease and recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reported that salmon farmers are using a banned pesticide – emamectin benzoate (SLICE) – to combat sea lice infestations.
The standard of open net-pen salmon farming remains an ecological concern because of the risks of escapement (in which the non-native Atlantic salmon can push the local wild salmon out of their habitat), disease and parasite transfers to the wild stocks, waste build-up and siltation. To contend with these risks, the salmon farming industry is being pressured to transition to land-based closed containment systems. Currently, Ocean Wise recommends only wild fish from British Columbia or Alaska as a best choice for salmon.
The Pacific ling is one of the least attractive – its Latin name, Ophiodon elongates means long toothed snake – but best tasting fish. Often called ling cod, the Pacific ling is not a cod, but rather a member of the greenling family. Pacific ling are unique to the west coast of North America with the greatest abundance in the rocky areas and underwater reefs of British Columbia. While mature males range in size from four to 12 pounds (almost never exceeding 14-pounds), females will grow to up to five feet in length and a weight of 80 pounds. We harvest Pacific ling using hook and line methods to ensure the highest quality product while avoiding the bycatch of non-targeted species. With an almost translucent (and often minty green tinged) flesh that turns to a tender snowy white meat when cooked, Pacific ling is often preferred to halibut.
With a flat body and mottled olive colouring to blend into the ocean floor, the Pacific halibut is the largest of all flatfish growing to a length of eight feet and a weight of 600 pounds. In fact, the Latin name Hippoglossus Stenolepsis translates as 'hippo of the sea" (while the English name is derived from "holy flatfish" as it was a special fish served on holy days in medieval England). Unlike the Atlantic halibut which is endangered throughout its range, the Pacific halibut is comparatively abundant, in large part due to the management and tight regulation of the fishery by the International Pacific Halibut Commission of the United States and Canada.
Using hook and line techniques, we harvest Pacific halibut along the west coasts of Vancouver Island and Haida Gwaii, where the young halibut are usually found close to the shore with the older fish preferring the deeper water. Pacific halibut is prized for the delicate flavor and firm texture of its sparkling white, almost translucent flesh. The lean white meat of the Pacific halibut is high in protein and low in sodium, fat and calories, and with a minimum of bones, halibut as whole fish, fillets or portions adapts well to baking, broiling, frying, poaching or barbecuing.
A highly migratory fish, albacore tuna are found in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans and the Mediterranean Sea. Albacore tuna caught by hook-and-line off of the West Coast of British Columbia is considered an Ocean Wise best choice as those albacore tuna populations are healthy and well managed and harvest is directed at the younger three to four year class fish (with low risk of contamination). Trolling for albacore tuna also avoids the bycatch of threatened or endangered sea turtles, sharks and seabirds that are a risk with other harvest methods.
We target albacore tuna in the fall fishery when a diet of anchovies provides the albacore tuna with a higher oil content and more flavourful flesh. Sashimi grade (served as shiro maguro), the tuna loins have a rosy pink flesh that turns ivory white when seared.
The cultured Qualicum Bay scallops have emerged as a sustainable alternative to commercially dredged scallops.
By raking the ocean floor to sift out scallops, dredging
damages the seabed and harvests (and discards) other non-targeted sea life which can include unmarketable, undersized, and endangered species.
Beyond the environmental damage caused by scallop dredging, the dredged scallops often contain grit as a consequence of the harvesting process.
The Qualicum Bay scallops are grown in mesh bags or trays which are suspended from secured flotation devices in nutrient-rich Georgia Strait. As a filter feeder, the Qualicum Bay scallop draws naturally occurring tiny plant and animal plankton through its gills.
The Qualicum Bay scallop is one of the largest scallops in the world often attaining sizes of 15 centimeters and 500 grams. Its unique diet results in an ivory to pinkish white meat that is shiny and firm with an aroma that is both sweet and briny. Qualicum Bay scallops are harvested daily, cleaned, graded and shipped live, either in shell or shucked.
The shell colour of Pacific oysters ranges from muddy brown to light gray with purple streaks and spots.
The meat is creamy white with a dark fringe around the mantle. While Pacific oysters can grow to over 12 inches, they are normally harvested at
six inches or less.
Pacific oyster farming is an environmentally sustainable activity over which, the government together with the shellfish farmers and other industry members have developed a set of mandatory operational standards. Coastal communities, First Nations, government and the shellfish industry work together to determine the most appropriate sites for Pacific oyster aquaculture where a balance is struck between the competing resource uses of the British Columbian coast.
Pacific oysters are grown in the inter-tidal zone where they eat microscopic algae and phytoplankton by filtering up to 20 gallons of seawater through their gills each day. Harvested off the beach, the Pacific oysters are collected and brought straight to the plant for same-day processing. The Pacific oyster is highly valued for the mild, sweet flavour of its moist flesh and for the clear liquor with its faint salty smell of the sea. Often eaten raw, the Pacific oyster flesh is firm and plump with a full nutty flavor and briny tang. Of the family of Pacific oysters, we specialize in the premium Kusshi and Sound Select varieties both of which are harvested in the pristine, glacial-fed waters of Baynes Sound, the sheltered narrow strait separating Vancouver Island and Denman Island. The Kusshis are small deep cup oysters that are considered a delicacy among oyster enthusiasts. Like Kusshis, the Sound Select are small, sweet and among the best tasting of the oysters.
Cultured Mediterranean mussels are grown without the use of feeds or chemicals. No new food nutrients are added to the ecosystem, as the Mediterranean mussels simply filter out plankton from the tidal waters that pass through their gill filaments. Prolific and quick-growing, these mollusks are well suited to sustainable cultivation on the British Columbia coast where they improve local water conditions by removing excess algae, nutrients and sediment as they filter feed.
The young Mediterranean mussels are suspended on mesh ropes from rafts in nutrient-rich waters. At harvest time, ropes covered with plump Mediterranean mussels are lifted into boats and the mussels are carefully removed.
Having won two international taste awards, Mediterranean mussels are larger, wider, plumper, sweeter and more tender than the other commercially available mussels. Mediterranean mussels are shipped live with their beards on to maintain quality and shelf life. Their large size makes the Mediterranean mussel ideal for serving stuffed or on the half shell.
By harvesting with traps rather than nets, our B.C. spot prawn fishery has little impact on the sea bed and sees virtually no unintended and discarded catch, making it one of the best managed and most sustainable of the fisheries. To enable daily harvest of the traps which are set along the B.C. Sunshine Coast, our purpose-built vessel employs a state-of-the-art propulsion system that enables high speed travel with minimal fuel consumption. As the B.C. spot prawns are harvested, they are placed in an on-board live tank which utilizes a computerized chilling system to circulate sea water drawn from the ocean floor. Within hours of harvest, the day’s catch is offloaded into a waiting delivery truck that transports the live B.C. spot prawns to be served in restaurants that evening. Customers across the continent receive next day delivery of live B.C. spot prawns and fresh BC spot prawn tails that are flown overnight from Vancouver International Airport.
Where the B.C. spot prawn has a uniquely sweet and delicious flesh that has established it as a feature item on the menus of the finest restaurants, the farmed tiger prawn has been described as “mushy in texture and almost devoid of flavor”. Moreover, the antibiotics used in tiger prawn farming (31 different types were identified in Vietnam in a 2006 study) are rising to detectable levels in the tiger prawns. The environmental movement has also targeted tiger prawn farming because of the irreversible damage it is causing to the mangrove ecosystem which is being cleared to establish tiger prawn farming lagoons.