The We’koqma’q First Nation in Cape Breton is partnering with fish farming giant Cooke Aquaculture to help with the sales and marketing of the reserve’s Bras d’Or Lakes steelhead trout.
Since 2011, a trout farm has been in operation at the reserve. Chief Rod Googoo said it has grown to have more than 50 people work at the fish farm, hatchery and processing plant. The operation has about 60 cages in the Bras d’Or Lakes.
“We started off small and we gradually built up steam and we got bigger and we got better at what we do, and we did it over a short period of time,” said Googoo, who estimates they will harvest between $10-$12 million of fish this year.
New Brunswick-based Cooke Aquaculture sells fresh seafood to 67 countries around the world.
Joel Richardson, vice-president of public relations for Cooke Aquaculture, said the company will be working closely with the We’koqma’q First Nation to offer advice and guidance.
“We sell a billion pounds of fresh seafood every year to customers all around the world, so it’s a great opportunity for them to tap into our network and leverage our sales team and our customer base,” he said.
Representatives from Cooke Aquaculture were on site this week to see the trout being processed and to monitor the quality and size of the fish.
Googoo hopes the marketing of the steelhead trout puts the community on the map internationally.
“It’s an incredible opportunity for them too, to be able to market a product that has been produced by First Nations people, Mi’kmaw,” said Googoo.
Seeking third-party certification
He said the next step for the fish farm is to secure third-party certification for environmentally and socially responsible production from the Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) program.
Richardson said all of Cooke Aquaculture’s sites in North America are BAP certified, which is an international standard that helps with marketing fish to buyers around the world.