One of the last working fish processors on Tofino's waterfront has been saved thanks to a group of local shareholders and an innovative business model.

In 2005, a diverse group of local residents, outside investors, First Nations and Ecotrust Canada came together to purchase the Trilogy Fish Co., a small processing plant and fresh seafood retail store in Tofino that was up for sale. Trilogy Fish is one of the last remaining working waterfront facilities in the resort community.

“For too long local residents on the West Coast have seen too much of their local resources harvested and shipped out of the community. With Trilogy Fish, we hope to reverse this trend. We want to see more jobs and income accruing to local fishermen, shellfish growers and First Nations who responsibly harvest our public resources,” says Ian Gill, President of Ecotrust Canada.

Ecotrust Canada brokered and financed Trilogy's purchase to create a base for value-added processing of local fish and shellfish. The deal also protected the industrial facility from development pressure in a town that is experiencing an explosion of condo and resort building on its waterfront.

“Tofino has traditionally been a fishing village. We want to create sustainable quality seafood brands that reflect Clayoquot Sound's cultural heritage, and keep fisheries as part of a local, diversified economy,” says Brenda Reid-Kuecks, Director of Community Programs for Ecotrust Canada in Tofino.

“It's a very unique place,” adds shareholder and local marine biologist Josie Osborne,”one of the only places in Ucluelet and Tofino right now that sells fresh fish and actually buys from local fishermen. I think that's a really important service for people.”

Currently almost all of the seafood harvested and produced in Clayoquot Sound leaves the region. Local fishermen and shellfish growers often receive rock-bottom prices for their harvests with no opportunity to do local value-added processing, branding and marketing. Trilogy Fish Co. hopes to change this.

“I would like to see local product go through a local plant,” says shareholder and shellfish grower Pat Koreski. “I sell oysters and I think it's a crime that our oysters have to go to the other side of the island for processing and then come back here and be sold in Tofino, and not be known as Clayoquot oysters.”

In its 1,500-square-foot waterfront facility, Trilogy Fish Co. specializes in custom processing and smoking of salmon caught by sports fishermen. It also includes a wholesale and retail business, and a dock.

The new owners are diversifying its product range including local salmon, clams, crabs, oysters, gooseneck barnacles and halibut, and see opportunities to market quality seafood to local restaurants and resorts which are expanding rapidly in the region. In 2006, Trilogy Fish opened a “garden café” in partnership with the Tofino Botanical Gardens to provide another avenue to sell and brand its products.

“We have our own local fishermen and we'd like to process locally instead of taking fish outside the communities,” says Carol Ann Hilton of the Hesquiaht Nation, which is a shareholder.

As part of its environmental commitment, the company has also participated in Ecotrust Canada's Climate Smart program that helps small businesses measure, reduce and offset their carbon footprint. In 2006, Trilogy's footprint was 30 tonnes. It has committed to halve its greenhouse gas emissions by reorganizing its delivery logistics and using more energy efficient technology.

The Trilogy shareholders include eight local residents, four outside investors, the Hesquiaht First Nation, and Ecotrust Canada. They invested $1 million to purchase, upgrade and operate the fish plant and retail outlet. John Gilmour, formerly plant manager with Keltic Cold Storage in Port Hardy, is Trilogy's general manager and is also a shareholder.

Ecotrust Canada Capital and Vancity Capital jointly financed the deal. For more information on business and micro-loans, visit www.ecotrustcapital.ca.