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Vancouver Island Companies Launch New Seaweed Harvesting Business

A First Nation seafood enterprise and a South Island-based seaweed company have teamed up for what they hope will be a profitable venture off the waters of Bamfield.

Nuu-chah-nulth Seafood, out of Port Alberni, and Cascadia Seaweed in Sidney have partnered and plan to harvest kelp in two one-hectare tenures near Bamfield.

Cascadia describes itself as a growing seaweed company that is poised to be one of the largest in North America. Company president Mike Williams says the cultivation, harvesting and processing of seaweed will result in a new industry on Vancouver Island.

“Vancouver Island is home to 630 native species of seaweed and British Columbia is one of the most prolific zones,” said Williamson. “There’s a lot of opportunity to build a purpose-driven enterprise.”

The initial plan is to grow 90-tonnes of Sugar Kelp which will then be processed in Port Alberni in a renovated facility — likely a former fish-processing building, according to Cascadia. 

“We’ll do a combination of fresh, frozen and dried products and that will lead to additional employment in the area as well,” said Williamson.

Up to one dozen jobs are anticipated in the first year but will expand with further tenure locations as things expand.

“We have the workforce here,” said Larry Johnson, president of Nuu-chah-nulth Seafood. “I believe the expertise is here (as is) the willingness to more forward.”

While this isn’t the first seaweed collection operation on the island, it’s the only one that plans to seed the kelp and then raise the seaweed for harvesting.

“That’s something that’s been missing is the balance in nature, so by putting some kelp back into it, it’ll help other things like sea urchins and other things that need the environment,” said Johnson.

The first seed should be in the water by the end of October, with hopes for the first harvest in early 2020.

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