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Executive Summary

The BC salmon industry is an important and ever-changing part of our food system. It is composed of both wild-caught and cultured salmon, involves many stakeholders, and impacts the environment, economy, culture and food security of BC residents as well as those worldwide.

The Centre for Sustainable Food Systems at UBC Farm in Vancouver, BC wishes to document the changes within the BC salmon industry over the past forty years through ethnographic research. To assist, Group 19 of LFS 350 in the Faculty of Land and Food System, we asked, “according to selected long-term stakeholders in the BC salmon industry, how have management, policies, technology, and advances in sustainability in the last four decades affected the BC salmon industry and its respective food system?” and predicted many differing opinions.

Through video-recorded interviews themes such as sustainability, environment, technology, policy, and food security were explored. Four selected stakeholders, each with varying degrees of involvement, and differing roles within the BC salmon industry were asked 13 open-ended questions in their natural setting. The interviews were video-recorded and later edited in to a short, accessible video via Wiki. Through qualitative data analysis, the perspectives given were used to create a report published on Wiki.

It was found that stakeholders independently spoke about sustainability, food literacy, technology, climate change overfishing, and policy change. Stakeholders identified that education about our food system may be helpful to promote a more sustainable food system.

Food security can be addressed in a number of ways. By improving public food-literacy, making information on this industry more detailed, yet accessible, promoting sustainable and local seafood choices, and improving collaboration and communication between commercial and cultured salmon sub-industries. Based on our findings we recommend that the future aquaponics project at the UBC Farm be educational to address food literacy surrounding the BC salmon industry. We also suggest that a more harmonious relationship between research communities, commercial salmon fishing, and aquaculture be established and supported. This might be done through making research more accessible, allowing opportunities for discussion between parties, and perhaps promoting more compatible management and regulations between commercial and cultured salmon sub-industries. Limitations of our ethnography included lack of Indigenous perspectives, only gaining opinions of those interviewed, and opinions only portray a ‘snapshot’ in time. In future research these limitations might be addressed by interviewing more stakeholders, over a longer period of time. In conclusion, issues and concerns of stakeholders within the BC salmon industry are common, and if food security is to be improved, partnerships within this industry must be enhanced to move forward together in a more sustainable way.


The BC salmon Industry is an important and ever-changing part of the food system in British Columbia. The BC salmon industry includes both wild caught and cultured (farmed) salmon and has impacts on the economy, environment, and culture of BC residents as well as others worldwide. Along with influences on these other areas of society, food security is also influenced by the BC salmon industry and the changes within this field over time (Appendix A).

As the BC salmon industry is such an important part of British Columbia’s food system, it is fundamental that the history, changes, and future of this industry are considered. The Centre for Sustainable Food Systems (CSFS) (System Model map available on Prezi) located at UBC Farm in Vancouver, BC wishes to document changes within this industry in the past 40 years. The CSFS is a unique research centre that aims to understand and fundamentally transform local and global food systems towards a more sustainable, food-secure future (About, n.d.). They strive to explore and exemplify new globally significant paradigms for the design and function of sustainable communities and their ecological support system, as well as enable UBC to be a global leader by creating new patterns for sustainable and healthy communities integrated with their surrounding ecology, through research, learning, collaboration, community engagement, international dialogue and knowledge-dissemination (About, n.d.). To assist with this goal, ‘Group 19’ from the class LFS 350 in the Faculty of Land and Food Systems at UBC, with the guidance of Dr. Hannah Wittman our community partner from the CSFS, interviewed long-term stakeholders to capture their experiences and perceptions of change within this industry.

Not only are we interested in experiences and perceptions of change, we also wished to find out how developments and changes within the BC salmon industry have affected sustainability and food security in British Columbia. To do so, we asked,

“According to selected long-term stakeholders in the BC salmon industry, how have management, policies, technology, environment, and advances in sustainability in the last four decades affected the BC salmon industry and its respective food system?”

We predicted that there are many differing opinions on each of these categories determined by individual experiences of long-term stakeholders in the BC salmon industry.


Theoretical Framework

We completed our community-based experiential learning (CBEL) project research using qualitative research methods. Our CBEL project required us to participate in community-based inquiry and learning focused on food systems and security, further allowing us to apply knowledge from lectures and readings to address a local food issue. The purpose of community-based research is work with and for a community, rather than “on” (Strand, 2000). We used the qualitative approach of ethnographic research. Ethnographic research examines cultural groups in their natural setting in order to produce an ethnography—a construction of observations, conversations, discoveries and insights gathered through the research process and compiled at the end (Creswel, 2003).

The challenging process of selecting four stakeholders was done by categorizing people involved at every level of the BC salmon food system (Appendix B), emailing them, and awaiting their reply. One stakeholder replied after completion of our project (Appendix C). We contacted Dr. Wittman hoping to connect with an Indigenous member of the community, but were unable to do so. The topic and scope of our project changed the resulting in the alteration of our research question (Appendix D).

We interviewed Teddie Geach, a seafood specialist from Ocean Wise, Shaun Strobel, a fisherman and co-founder/director of Skipper Otto, Dr. Anthony (Tony) P. Farrell, the Canadian Research Chair in Fish Physiology Culture and Cultivation, and Dr. Andrew Riseman the academic director for the CSFS with an interest in fish production and aquaculture (Appendix E).

We conducted separate face-to-face interviews to gain first person perspectives and insight on changes and their impacts within the BC salmon industry. Three of us were present to conduct each interview to record and take notes and to allow for multiple perspectives. We asked thirteen open-ended questions during our interviews (Appendix F). These questions were critiqued, edited, and approved by our community partner and helped eliminate researcher biases that may have been overlooked.

Data Collection and Management

We uploaded the interview videos to YouTube (Appendix G), for group members to watch, and take notes individually (Appendix H). As a group we used ethnographic data analysis (as outlined by Thorne, 2000) to code and discuss our data according to agreed upon emerging themes. Categorizations and findings were put into a table (Appendix I). A comprehensive video was created to communicate our findings to our community partner and the public via Wiki (Appendix J).

A number of resources and materials were used for research purposes (Appendix K).


Ongoing communication was ongoing between group members, Dr. Wittman, and stakeholders (Appendix L).

Ethical Responsibilities

As research was conducted in the field we had certain ethical responsibilities to uphold. We had to maintain the integrity of the stakeholder's workplace and the community as a whole. We had to respect the communities and people we are in contact with, ensuring our methods for observation and collection of data are not intrusive, offensive, and fall within ethical guidelines adhering to the Canadian Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans (Goodman, 2011). This required us to maintain transparency in conducting our research by keeping information public via Wiki.


It was found that stakeholders independently spoke about sustainability, food literacy, technology, climate change overfishing, and policy change (Appendix I). Stakeholders identified that education about our food system may be helpful to promote a more sustainable food system.

Discussion & Limitations


Stakeholders discussed sustainability issues in the BC salmon industry, particularly improper fishing practices such as overfishing as a result of technological advancements. Dr. Andrew Riseman articulates that the, “ First Nations understanding of how fish can be sustainably harvested has been lost”, whereas Sean Strobel, a local fisherman, attributes unsustainable harvesting to, “corporate domination”, and how, “big companies with ships will do the damage, and they will overfish the area”. He emphasizes that overfishing is nearly impossible using hook and line methods. Teddie Geach mentions that overfishing of cod in eastern Canada is due to technological advancements as well as the misconception that the ocean is an “endless abundance” of seafood. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations notes that technological advances have led to more efficient and economical operations, however, where management has been ineffective, the greater efficiency of fishing methods and aquaculture production has sometimes led to overfishing and environmental degradation (FAO, 2014). Overall we can see that the efficacy at which we can obtain fish from the sea has increased over the past 40 years, and can increase the occurrence of unsustainable fishing practices.

Climate change over the past 40 years was a concern discussed between two of our stakeholders. Geach indicated, “ 13 of the past 20 summers have been above warmest on record this makes the salmon al to more vulnerable to predators, parasites and disease”. Dr. Tony Farrell spoke about the increased vulnerability of salmon to temperature fluctuations that result in “water low in oxygen in the fall”. The World Wildlife Federation (WWF) has found increasing ocean temperatures places physiological stress on Pacific Salmon, and resulted in decreased dissolved oxygen levels of the Pacific Ocean (WWF, 2013). Climate change has also resulted in a decrease of marine survival for all species of Pacific salmon, leading to a rapid decline of Canadian salmon stocks (Naokes, Beamish & Gregory, 2002). Rising temperatures and a decrease in water oxygen levels threaten BC salmon.

Overfishing due to industrialization and threats to salmon caused by climate change have both led to shifts in policies in the BC salmon industry. Strobel spoke about the Davis and Mifflin plans. The Davis plan (1969) introduced a license limitation to fisherman in hopes to reduce the size of the salmon fleet (Watershed Watch Salmon Society, 2010). Strobel pointed out that although new licenses could not be bought, they could be rolled together leading to more larger, higher capacity vessels. Strobel also talks about a plan in the, “late 90’s a policy came out where you picked one third of the coastline that you wanted to fish on, if you wanted more area to fish it was more expensive”, which impacted him as a small scale family fisherman. Strobel was talking about the Mifflin plan, also known as the “Pacific Salmon Revitalization Strategy” that was introduced by the Canadian Federal Government in 1996 in hopes to reduce the size and capacity of the fishing by having “area licensing” (Watershed Watch Salmon Society, 2010). There are also policies surrounding aquaculture. Dr. Tony Farrell discussed “policies that control water quality and prevent waste water from releasing to the environment” and “policies that restricted the growth of [net-pen] agriculture... in the BC environment”. Overall, policy changes follow after prominent issues arise.

With fish demands rising (with population increasing), and restrictions to commercial fishing in place, an alternative may be aquaculture. Dr. Riseman and Dr. Farrell are both involved in aquaculture at different capacities— Dr.Riseman with a prospective aquaculture system at the UBC Farm, and Dr. Farrell in fish physiology research. Dr. Riseman believes that, “land based systems have their challenges, but that is the way forward, and I think that the salmon industry is starting to see that with the new development of many land based recirculating systems coming online.” Dr. Riseman also stresses the prospects of sustainability in regards to the project at UBC Farm, “The motto is only fish food in, only people food out. Zero effluent, full waste reutilization, and energy efficiency”. Dr. Farrell notes that, “the increase in demand for fish is being met by aquaculture on a global scale” and emphasizes we are, “reducing our ecological footprint, by switching to farmed salmon”. The design of recirculating aquaculture systems can monitor proper water quality, water usage, mechanical maintenance, waste management and disposal, and can control the outbreak of disease (Midilli et al., 2011). These systems are advantageous (as opposed to open water culture) by having better control on the production environment for optimum fish growth, have lower water consumption per ton of fish produced, minimizes the impact on the external environment by treating wastewater, and can operate all year round (Midilli et al., 2011). However these systems can consume excessive amounts of electricity (Midilli et al., 2011). Aquaculture is an innovative way forward in salmon production to meet global demands and address sustainability, however still requires research and improvements.

The stakeholders discussed other ways of the industry needed to move forward to maintain sustainability of the BC salmon food system. Geach, who works at the level of consumers and producers, as well as Strobel, at the production level, believed this could be achieved better management of wild fishing practices. The David Suzuki Foundation also believes this is the way to move forward, and provides solutions for habitat protection in hopes “provide a significant upgrade to the current salmon habitat management system” (Young & Werring, 2006). Geach emphasizes Ocean Wise’s overarching goal is to have sustainable seafood the “only” option for consumers, and their hopes to to do this through facilitating the connection between sustainable producers and consumers. Other companies, such as This Fish, connect consumers with the fisherman, by allowing traceability of seafood caught from the ocean to consumer’s plates (This Fish, 2013). Management and the promotion and availability of sustainable seafood are other ways to improve the BC salmon industry.

At this time, a more realistic step to improving sustainability in the BC salmon industry may be to increase food literacy through education and community connections. Food literacy is a term used to describe the everyday practicalities of navigating the food system, and includes the implied components of the language of food, knowledge of its origins, food preparation, and sustainability (Vidgen & Gallegos, 2014). Dr. Riseman is concerned that consumers, “do not know where their food comes from and they do not know about what they eat”, and the salmon industry needs to, “do a better job of informing the public about what it’s producing”. Geach identified a challenge to seafood sustainability as “consumer awareness and education… to make better choices…[and that] education is key in terms of providing consumers with the appropriate knowledge to make those better choices...and with ocean wise we’re trying to make it doing the research for them”. Dr. Farrell talked about the general misunderstanding of aquaculture by the public and says, “a large effort of the aquaculture industry is now to educate the public”. Strobel states that “keeping up interest in what they [the fisherman] are doing”, and increasing public knowledge by, “connecting the consumer public with the fisherman” directly can increase sustainability. Transparency within the BC salmon industry, education, and community connections all promotes food literacy, ultimately improving sustainability.

Sustainability was a main theme and was the basis of much of the questions asked, and answers provided by our stakeholders. Technology was identified as a progression, but also has the potential to lead to overfishing. Climate change is a threat to BC salmon. The threats of overfishing, and stock decreases of wild salmon due to climate change both have lead to policy changes over the last 40 years, and policy has been developed with the establishment of more aquaculture programs. Stakeholders recognize the importance of management in this industry to promote sustainability. On a consumer level, stakeholders emphasize the importance of food literacy to make more sustainable choices, and stress the need for education and transparency within the BC salmon industry to achieve this.


There are several limitations to our research. For many of us, this was the first time going out into the field to conduct qualitative research. Furthermore many of us were completing several other courses alongside this research project, which limited the allotted time we had to spend on our research. We were not able to include many representatives from the salmon food system, particularly an Indigenous perspective, a voice we felt was important to include. Also, the ethnographic research is only a “temporal artifact” in that it only provides a “snapshot” perspective of time of the BC salmon industry, thus indicating that research needs to be continuous as this food system is constantly changing over time (Rudkin, 2002).


Stakeholders within the BC salmon industry highlighted many important themes in our research. Sustainability, technology, overfishing climate, and policy change were highlighted. Stakeholders identified good management practices and an increase in food literacy as methods to increase sustainability within the BC salmon industry. To enhance food security, public food-illiteracy must be addressed, information on this industry must be detailed and accessible, sustainable and local seafood choices must be promoted, and collaboration and communication between commercial and cultured salmon sub-industries. Based on our findings we recommend that the future aquaponics project at the UBC Farm be educational to address food literacy surrounding the BC salmon industry. We also suggest that a more harmonious relationship between research communities, commercial salmon fishing, and aquaculture be established and promoted. This might be done through making research more accessible, allowing opportunities for discussion between parties, and perhaps if the management and regulations of commercial and cultured salmon were more compatible. In conclusion, issues and concerns of stakeholders within the BC salmon industry are common, and if food security is to be improved, partnerships within this industry must be enhanced to move forward together in a more sustainable way.


Creswell, J. W. (2003). Research design: qualitative, quantitative, and mixed method approaches. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications. (pp. 3-23)

Food and Agriculture Organization. (2014). Fisheries Technology. Retrieved from: Goodman, V. (2011). Applying Ethnographic Research Methods in Library and Information Settings. Libri, 61(1), pp. 1-11. doi:10.1515/libr.2011.001

Midilli, A. Kucuk, H. Dincer, I. (2011). Environmental and sustainability aspects of a recirculating aquaculture system. Environmental Progress and Sustainable Energy. 31(4): 604-611.

Noakes, D.J., Beamish, R.J. & Gregory, R. (2002). British Columbia’s Commercial Salmon Industry. (NPAFC Doc. No. 642). 13 p. Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans, Sciences Branch - Pacific Region, Pacific Biological Station, Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada. V9T 6N7.

Rudkin, K. (2002) Applying critical ethnographic methodology and method in accounting research. Critical Perspectives on Accounting Conference. 25-27 April 2002 (pp. 1 - 33). New York: Baruch College

Skipper Otto's Community Supported Fishery. (2014). Meet The Fisherman. Retrieved from

Strand, K.J. (2000). Community‐based Research as Pedagogy. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning,7,85–96

Tangled Lines. (1996). A Federal-Provincial Review of the Mifflin Plan. Government of Canada & Government of British Columbia wesbite:

This Fish. (2013). Discover the Story of your Seafood. Retrieved from

Thorne, S. (2000). Data Analysis in Qualitative Research. Evid Based Nurs (3)3:p 68-70 doi:10.1136/ebn.3.3.68

UBC Land and Food Systems. (2013). Anthony (Tony) P. Farrell. Retrieved from

Vancouver Aquarium. (2014). OceanWise. Retrieved from

Vidgen, H., Gallegos, D. (2014). Defining food literacy and it’s components. Appetite. 76(1): 50-59.

Watershed Watch Salmon society. (2010). Commercial Salmon Fishing: Liscencing, Allocation, and Related Issues. Policy and Practice report. Retrieved from

WWF. (2013). Marine Climate Change on Canada’s Pacific Coast. Factsheet. Retrieved from

Young, J. & J. Werring. (2006). The will to protect: preserving B.C.’s wild salmon habitat. Pp. 1-41. Prepared for the David Suzuki Foundation, Vancouver, B.C.


Appendix A: Expansion on the BC salmon industry

The BC salmon industry has long contributed to food security directly as a food source for the residents of BC, and consumers worldwide. Food security, as outlined by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, exists when, “all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food which meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life” (Ostry, 2010). In order to achieve food security the four components of availability, stability of food supply, accessibility of food, and utilization of food (in culinary and cultural terms) must be met (Ostry, 2010).

The BC salmon industry is composed of both wild caught and cultured salmon. Commercial salmon fishing began in British Columbia in 1826 (Noakes, et al. 2002).Since then catches have gone through a number of increases and declines with historic high levels in 1985, and lowest in 1999 (Noakes, et al. 2002). Due to declines in stocks, there has been a reduction in the size of commercial salmon fleet, changes to processing industries, salmon enhancement programs, and management changes (Noakes, et al. 2002). Salmon aquaculture in British Columbia commenced in the 1970’s, although a moratorium for new farm sites was imposed in the 1990’s and later lifted in 2002 by the Provincial Government. In 2002 it was estimated by Noakes, et al. that farmed salmon production was three times the commercial harvest of Pacific salmon with expectations to grow. The development of salmon farming is controversial in nature due to various social, economic, environmental concerns (Noakes, et al. 2002). To address these concerns there have been reviews, recommendations, and programs to better manage this industry (Noakes, et al. 2002).

The BC salmon industry has economic, environmental, cultural importance of those involved either directly or indirectly involved in this industry. The BC salmon industry contributes significantly to the BC economy. Not only is salmon the largest export of seafood sectors worth $462.2 million in 2011 (MOA, 2012), it is the largest agricultural export in BC (Noakes, et al. 2002). Environmentally, there are concerns about for commercial fisheries concerning rising ocean temperatures, as well as overfishing of targeted and bycatch species (Noakes, et al. 2002). Concerns are also raised about farmed salmon and animal welfare, land-use changes, fish-feed production, environmental pollution, parasite and disease transmission to wild fish, and escapees (Oleson, et al. 2011). Culturally, this species is important to the residents and First Nations of BC. The Pacific salmon was listed as our provincial fish in 2013 (Ministry of Environment, 2013). First Nations in the Pacific Northwest have long relied on salmon for their livelihood, and are of the oldest known fishing cultures in the world (Garner & Parfitt, 2006).

Appendix B: Table of potential stakeholders who were contacted to participate in our research

Table 1. Stakeholders contacted to participate in our research
  • Pacific Salmon Foundation
  • Skipper Otto’s Community Supported Fishery
  • KUTERRA Land-Based Closed Containment Salmon Farm
  • BC Salmon Farmers Association (Appendix C)
  • AERO trading Co. LTD.
  • Coldfish Seafood Company
Distribution & Aggregation
  • Albion Seafood Suppliers BC
  • This Fish
  • OceanWise
  • The David Suzuki Foundation
  • Representative from Environment Canada for GE Salmon
Markets & Purchasing
  • Seven Seas
  • The Daily Catch
  • The SAFEGARD project (UBC)
  • Farm Aquaponics Research Representative
  • Dr.Anthony (Tony) P. Farrell, UBC department of Zoology, Canadian Research Chair (Tier I) in Fish Physiology
  • Dr. Andrew Reiseman- UBC, involvement with UBC farm aquaponics project
  • The UBC Fisheries Centre

Appendix C: BC Salmon Farmers Association's Response to Interview Questions

File:UBC Centre for Sustainable Food Systems - BCSFA response Nov 27 2014.pdf

Appendix D: Link to Wiki Proposal

Appendix E: Finalized Stakeholder Summary

  • OceanWise- a Vancouver Aquarium conservation program created to educate and empower consumers about the issues surrounding sustainable seafood (Vancouver Aquarium, 2014). Representative: Teddie Geach, seafood specialist.
  • Skipper Otto's Community Supported Fishery- creates a direct connection between local fishermen and consumers with the joint goal of protecting ocean resources and improving the local food system. Representative: Shaun Strobel, co-founder/director of Skipper Otto, salmon fisherman (Skipper Otto's Community Supported Fishery, 2014).
  • Canadian Research Chair (Tier I) in Fish Physiology, Culture and Conservation- Dr.Anthony (Tony) P. Farrell, UBC department of Zoology, researcher in Fish physiology and conservation, research includes: Spawning migration of Pacific salmon and climate change (UBC Land and Food Systems, 2013).
  • Professor in Applied Biology and Plant Breeding-UBC- Dr. Andrew Riseman, Aquaponics specialist

Appendix F: Interview Question

Eight "group specific" questions we created, and five general questions created between our group and groups 20 and 21

  1. How long has your (organization) been involved with the BC Salmon industry? What policies and regulations have most significantly impacted your work within the BC salmon industry? (group specific)
  2. How has your personal role evolved in the Vancouver Food System?(collaborated)
  3. What significant changes over the past 40 years have impacted your business most significantly? (group specific)
  4. What do you see as the biggest challenge to the sustainability of our current food system? (collaborated)
  5. Tell me about your [company/project/work]. Is there any aspect of your work that you feel touches on issues of sustainability? Tell us about these. (collaborated)
  6. How does the salmon industry affect food security/sustainability in BC? (group specific)
  7. What are the greatest factors/ influences surrounding sustainability issues within the BC Salmon industry? (group specific)
  8. What do you see as the biggest challenge to the sustainability of our current food system? (collaborated)
  9. Are there any misunderstanding about the BC Salmon industry that members of the public may have that you want to clarify?(group specific)
  10. What do you think the biggest milestones have been over the last four decades in the BC Salmon industry? (group specific)
  11. Achievements/ failures in the past 4 decades and why do you think it works/does not work? (group specific)
  12. Do you guys have difficulties in marketing, advertising or promoting the salmon industry to the public? (group specific)
  13. Where do you see your [company/project/work] in the future? (collaborated)

Appendix G: Links to uncut interview footage

Raw uncut interviews with Teddy Geach (Oceanwise) , Dr. Andrew Riseman (Aquaponics specialist) and Shaun Strobel (Skipper Otto) :

Raw uncut interview with Dr.Anthony (Tony) P. Farrell (Fish Physiologist):

Part 1:

Part 2:

Appendix H: Example of our video notes used for data analysis

File:Interview transcriptions.pdf

Appendix I: Table of our emergent themes

File:Table 2- Emergent themes.pdf

Appendix J: Final Project Video

Appendix K: Resources Needed

Resources needed for our research:

  • Interview time and space in the stakeholder's environment
  • Camera/ tape-recorder
  • Car/access to travel
  • Video/Sound editing equipment
  • Written permission from those who we are interviewing
  • Phones/computer access
  • Powerpoint

Appendix L- Communication details

We used our Facebook page as the primary method of communication between group members. We met once with Dr. Wittman face-to-face at the beginning of the semester, and then continued by email for the rest of the semester. We assigned one group member to directly contact Dr.Wittman through email, and report back to the group by posting to our group Facebook page. We emailed out our interview questions to our stakeholders prior to the interviews, and used email to set up interviews with our stakeholders. Nicki was the primary communicator with Teddy Geach, Taisha with Dr. Andrew Riseman and Dr.Anthony (Tony) P. Farrell, and Gregory with Shaun Strobel.