Surf on Cariboo turf: Canim Lake Band moves forward with fish farm plans

The band will do field investigations for a land-based, closed-containment fish farm this summer

The Canim Lake Band is working on plans to farm some local ‘surf’ to pair with the Cariboo’s ample ‘turf.’

On April 22, the band received $100,000 from the BC Rural Dividend Program to put toward a closed-containment fish farm development.

According to Fisheries and Oceans Canada, closed containment is a barrier technology that attempts to restrict and control interactions between farmed fish and the external aquatic environment.

RELATED: Province announces almost $1 million in funding for projects in the Cariboo

Closed containment can include floating bag systems, but the band is proposing a land-based recirculating aquaculture system along Canim Lake Road South.

The band previously completed a business plan for the development with Urban Systems out of Kamloops, and the Rural Dividend grant money will be used for Phase 2 of the project. Phase 2 includes field investigations, environmental assessments, and partnership and business development.

Economic development officer Roy Christopher told the Free Press that field investigations will be done to prove there is water supply available in the proposed location for the farm on Lot 150 of I.R. #1, since the band does not want to rely on domestic water supply for the project.

Christopher said the band is hoping to have the test well investigations done by late summer or early fall.

“We’re just working on that now to get that up and running,” he said. “If we have sufficient water then we’ll be looking at getting the financing to build the facility.”

The rest of the grant money will be used to do marketing, and attract investors or develop partnerships.

“One of the big issues that we face, as with any small community, is the capital or startup,” he said, adding that capital expenditures for a farm with an output of around 300 metric tonnes could be $4 to $5 million or more.

Christopher said the output of the facility will determine how many jobs are created and where the fish is sold, and the chief and council will make more final decisions after reviewing the results of Phase 2 and risk assessments.

“For a small community like ours with other competing projects, the band has to weigh where they allocate their funding and look at the internal capacity to handle something like this,” he said.

However, Christopher added that the current proposed project size around 300 metric tonnes would probably create about 10 jobs, and more jobs would also be created if the band decides to grow their own fingerlings or do spin-off businesses, such as fertilizer.

RELATED: Fish farming company launches $30-million vessel to treat salmon for sea lice in B.C. waters

The band was considering steelhead salmon after touring the Little Cedar Falls fish farm in Nanaimo in early 2017 and seeing that it was “doing fairly well,” but Christopher said they will likely go with coho salmon.

“We also looked at a fish farm in Agassiz. They’re raising coho,” he said. “That’s probably the one we would go with, but again those are some of the final decisions that have to be made once we get into a little more assessment on the market.”

RELATED: Nanaimo aquafarm named finalist in business investment competition

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