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British Columbia has a 25,000 kilometre-long, island-dotted coastline, and freshwater lakes, rivers and streams covering 1.8 million hectares. With one of the world’s most diverse seafood sectors, BC offers over 90 different species of wild and cultured fish, shellfish and plants harvested from fresh and marine waters.

In 2008, the landed value of the seafood harvest was $709.5 million, while the processed (wholesale) value of these products reached $1.2 billion. Salmon, derived from both wild and farmed sources, generated over 50 per cent of the wholesale value of seafood products, followed by shellfish, groundfish and halibut.

Fishery Statistics—2008 (estimate)
Wholesale Value
$ millions
Wild salmon
Farmed salmon
Groundfish (excl. Halibut)
Total Wholesale Value
Total Landed Value
Source: 2008 BC Seafood Industry Review, Ministry of Environment

The seafood industry operates all along the provincial coast. The major concentrations of the province's 233 processing operations are in the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island and Prince Rupert areas.

Oceanographic conditions along the province's coastline create an ideal setting for the cultivation of marine plants, shellfish and fish, primarily farmed salmon. In 2008 one-third of all seafood harvested was produced in fresh and saltwater aquaculture with a total farmgate value of $428.9 million.

Commercial Capture Fisheries
Sixty-four per cent (162,200 tonnes) of British Columbia’s seafood was produced from the commercial capture fisheries in 2008. Overall the harvest was down 10 per cent from the previous year’s 179,400 tonnes. The landed value generated by the fishery, $280.6 million, also experienced a 10 per cent decline from the $312.3 million recorded in 2007. The marine commercial fishery made up 40 per cent of the total landed value of British Columbia seafood.

Wild Salmon
The 2008 wild salmon harvest came in at 5,100 tonnes – down 75 per cent from the 20,200 tonnes recorded in 2007. In recent years wild salmon harvest limits have been reduced to ensure long-term health and abundance of local salmon stocks.

Sockeye made up 35 per cent (1,800 tonnes) of the harvest followed by chum at 33 per cent (1,700 tonnes), chinook at 18 per cent (900 tonnes), pinks at eight per cent (400 tonnes) and coho the remaining six per cent (300 tonnes).

Each of the five species of salmon receives a very different price when delivered to the plants – in 2008 landed prices ranged from $0.50 per kg for pinks to $9.11 per kg for chinook. Chinook generated the highest total landed value of all wild salmon species in 2008 with $8.2 million (a contribution of 40 per cent of the total value of salmon from capture fisheries). Sockeye generated $7.1 million (a 35 per cent share) followed by chum with $3.0 million (15 per cent), coho with $1.8 million (9 per cent) and pinks with $200,000 which accounted for the remaining one per cent.

The total landed value of wild salmon, at $20.3 million, contributed seven per cent of the value of the capture fisheries harvest and three per cent of the provincial total.

British Columbia’s herring industry has three separately managed fisheries: roe herring, food and bait, and spawn-on-kelp. In 2008, these three fisheries recorded a combined harvest of 11,400 tonnes – down slightly from the previous year. Prices for herring roe and spawn-on-kelp were down in 2008 and the herring total landed value fell 23 per cent from $20.2 million to $15.5 million.

Ninety-two percent (10,500 tonnes) of British Columbia’s herring production came from the roe herring fishery in 2008. Although the harvest held steady compared to 2007, the landed value declined 15 per cent from $12.8 million to $10.9 million and contributed 70 per cent of the total landed value of herring.

The herring food and bait fishery made up seven per cent of the herring harvest in 2008 as production fell 27 per cent from 1,100 tonnes to 800 tonnes. This fishery was a minor contributor to the economic value of the species - in 2008 sales were down 11 per cent from $900 thousand to $800,000.

Herring spawn-on-kelp (SOK) harvests were down 33 per cent in 2008 to 210 tonnes (one per cent of the herring catch). In general, SOK carried a high price per kg and this small harvest generated 25 per cent of the total landed value of the herring fishery - $3.8 million.

Groundfish was by far the largest species group in terms of harvest volumes. In 2008, 113,900 tonnes of groundfish were harvested in capture fisheries in British Columbia.

Hake is B.C.’ s most abundant species and the annual fluctuations in harvest have a large influence on overall totals for the groundfishery and ultimately the provincial totals as well. In 2008, the hake harvest was similar to 2007 at 73,800 tonnes and contributed 65 per cent of the groundfish harvest, 45 per cent of all capture fisheries landings and 30 per cent of the total British Columbia seafood harvest. The average price paid for hake in 2008 was $0.35/kg – which made it a relatively low value fish by weight However, the price was sufficient for hake sales to reach $25.8 million in 2008, ranking it as the fourth highest generator of landed value of all British Columbia seafood species.

The next three most notable species in the 2008 groundfishery were rockfish, sablefish and halibut. While harvest levels for these species were much smaller than hake (17,700, 4,500, and 3,100 tonnes respectively), they garner strong prices to the fisher and postproduction. In 2008, halibut was the No. 1 species in terms of landed value at $36.5 million, followed by sablefish at $23.5 million and rockfish at $21.0 million. Combined these three species made up almost onehalf of the landed value of the groundfishery in 2008.

Wild Shellfish
British Columbia’s shellfishery, at 15,800 tonnes, contributed 10 per cent of the total capture fishery landings in 2008. The shellfish catch and its corresponding landed value were both seven per cent lower than in 2007. The landed value, at $100.6 million, represented 36 per cent of the landed value of wild British Columbia fisheries.

In 2008, the top three species in terms of harvest volume were crabs at 6,600 tonnes, followed by prawns at 2,400 tonnes and red sea urchins at 1,800 tonnes. These species contributed 42 per cent, 15 per cent and 11 per cent, respectively, of the capture shellfish total harvest.

Eighty-nine per cent of the landed value of capture shellfisheries was generated by three species: crabs, prawns and geoduck clams. In 2008 the crab fishery contributed $37.4 million (37 per cent), prawns brought in $26.3 million (26 per cent) and geoduck clams raised $25.8 million (26 per cent) of the wild shellfish landed value.

Cultured Seafood
In 2008, 90,900 tonnes (36 per cent) of British Columbia’s seafood was produced in culture facilities – a slight increase from the previous year’s 89,800 tonnes. The operations generated a farmgate value $428.9 million – 5 per cent higher than the $410.4 million reported in 2007. The aquaculture sector made up 60 per cent of the total landed value of British Columbia seafood.

Salmon: In 2008, the cultured salmon harvest (from marine and freshwater operations) was 81,400 tonnes, a three per cent increase over the 78,900 tonnes recorded in 2007. Similarly, the landed (farmgate) value of cultured salmon was up six per cent - from $384.1 million in 2007 to $406.1 million in 2008.

Atlantic salmon is the province’s single-most significant commodity with the largest harvest and highest landed value of any other species – wild or cultured. In 2008, Atlantic salmon (at 77,200 tonnes) made up 95 and 31 per cent of the cultured and provincial seafood harvests respectively. Atlantic salmon sales rose from $352.1 million in 2007 to $381.8 million 2008 (an eight per cent increase). This species contributed 54 per cent of the total landed value of all British Columbia seafood and 94 per cent of the value of cultured seafood production.

Pacific salmon (chinook, coho and sockeye) production fell 25 per cent from 5,600 tonnes in 2007 to 4,200 tonnes in 2008 for a five per cent share of the culture seafood harvest. The corresponding farmgate value for Pacific salmon fell 24 per cent from $32 million to $24.3 million and generated six per cent of the landed value of aquaculture.

Other Species: Sablefish, tilapia, rainbow trout, abalone and marine micro-algae are all produced on a smaller scale in British Columbia. In 2008, these species combined made up a harvest of 2,300 tonnes and generated $7.1 million in farmgate sales.

Shellfish: Cultured shellfish production fell from 9,800 tonnes in 2007 to 7,200 tonnes in 2008 – a 27 per cent decline. The harvest contributed three per cent of the total provincial seafood harvest and eight per cent of cultured production. Pacific oysters made up 74 per cent of the harvest at 5,300 tonnes, followed by clams (geoduck, Manila and littlenecks) with 1,300 tonnes (18 per cent) and the final 600 tonnes (eight per cent) derived from scallop and mussel harvests.

The farmgate values for all cultured shellfish species were down in 2008 and the sector experienced an overall decline of 26 percent in value generating $15.7 million in 2008 compared to $21.3 million in 2007. Clams generated $7.0 million in sales and made up 45 per cent of the landed value of cultured shellfish; oyster sales were reported at $6.2 million (39 per cent) and scallops and mussels came in at $2.5 for a 16 per cent share.

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