Food has always played a significant role in human identity and society, yet access to enough healthy and culturally appropriate food is a major inequity among rural, remote, and Indigenous communities. In 2021, Ecotrust Canada began planting seeds to address food security and sovereignty in Prince Rupert, BC. Our Food Systems work aims to build upon the groundswell of food security work that local organizations have already undertaken to realize lasting solutions to local food systems challenges on the traditional territories of the Coast Ts’msyen Peoples. With our partners, we seek to contribute to a collaborative, vibrant, and innovative local food economy built by and for communities on the North Coast with rippling effects in the Skeena Bulkley Valley regions.
Why Ecotrust Canada
The Food Systems Initiative is the culmination of three years of research, pilot projects, and community engagements facilitated by a collection of community development and social change organizations that partnered with Ecotrust Canada’s North Coast Innovation Lab (NCIL).
Through this work, it became increasingly clear that food security and sovereignty are issues of great importance to community members. Global supply chain disruptions, large monocultures, and produce with poor nutritional quality, highlight the need for more resilient sources of local, fresh food.
One project explored through the North Coast Innovation Lab was Regenerative Ocean Farming (ROF). ROF showed promise as a local solution to food system challenges on the North Coast of BC. In 2021, we launched our ROF pilot with Metlakatla First Nation as a potential pathway to greater food security and sovereignty on Coast Ts’msyen territory.
What is Regenerative Ocean Farming?
Regenerative ocean farming involves creating mini-ecosystems by growing various seaweed and shellfish species that complement one another. This method enhances the surrounding ocean ecosystem health while providing food and jobs for coastal communities. Learn more here.
Support Coast Ts’msyen Nations as they continue building vibrant, regenerative marine food systems on the North Coast of BC. Together, we are exploring the possibilities of how Regenerative Ocean Farming (ROF) can be a viable economic, cultural, and sustainable social innovation for Indigenous communities and BC’s North and Central Coast.
With our partners, we’ve identified four components of a regenerative mariculture food system on the North Coast of BC that we believe will transform our region’s food systems and local economy.
Metlakatla First Nation Regenerative Ocean Farm Hub
In 2021, three partners came together, Metlakatla First Nation, Ecotrust Canada, and GreenWave, to launch a pilot Regenerative Ocean Farm building off an already existing scallop farm that was no longer in operation. We planted two long lines in the farm’s first year and harvested 1,560 lbs of kelp. Seeing the potential, we have expanded, growing more kelp, and are working with local retailers to obtain licensing to distribute scallops to community members and markets.
Together we are building a sustainable ocean farm that will sell seafood to local and provincial markets, improve local food security and access, and create training and education opportunities for emerging regenerative ocean farmers throughout the North and Central Coast of BC.
Ghost Gear Clean-up and Scallop Recovery
Lost or abandoned industrial infrastructure and fishing gear, also known as “ghost gear,” is a major risk to ocean health, as well as to the coastal fishing communities on the North Coast of BC. In addition to being a significant navigational hazard, ghost gear threatens to entangle whales, other marine mammals, and sensitive fish species.
In 2022, in partnership with Metlakatla’s aquaculture crew, we began a massive effort to reclaim and recover ghost gear from a former scallop farm operation. Recovery efforts resulted in 22,300kg of ghost gear removal, including 13,300kg of waste, and approximately 9,000kg of material to be stored onsite for reuse or future recycling. More recovery efforts are needed, and we are pursuing future clean-ups with Metlakatla Development Corporation and other marine partners.
Develop a Hatchery and Nursery
Securing a stable and consistent local source for kelp and shellfish seed will be a cornerstone for expanding an Indigenous-led regenerative ocean farming movement across the BC Coast. Metlakatla Development Corporation and Ecotrust Canada are currently collaborating on a feasibility study to develop an integrated kelp and shellfish hatchery that will provide seed stock to aspiring regenerative ocean farms and surrounding First Nation communities in the North.
Science and Research
In the last several years, ROF has been called a fix-all; a method of farming that sequesters carbon, cleans the water column, and boosts biodiversity. We think it’s too early to claim that ROF will save the planet, but we do believe in proactively understanding its impacts. ROF is a new field, so we’re contributing much-needed research and data to build a holistic understanding of the impacts of kelp cultivation and restoration, including its capacity for climate mitigation. We are collaborating with Metlakatla Stewardship Society, Metlakatla Development Corporation, OceanWise, Cascadia Seaweed and the DFO to implement a monitoring plan to better understand how ROF affects and aligns with Metlakatla Stewardship’s priorities for their lands and waters.
- Collaborate with local organizations and individuals on projects with the aim of increasing local food access and recognizing food as a driver of community well-being.
- Establish a Regenerative Ocean Farm as a pathway for supporting marine livelihoods, and community food programming with Metlakatla First Nation.
- Develop viable seaweed products for local markets.
- Restore abandoned scallop farm sites and improve ocean health.
- Prove it’s possible to improve food security, food sovereignty, and increase local food access in Prince Rupert and the Pacific Northwest of BC.
Celine Trojand, Chief Impact Officer and Food Systems Initiative Lead
Mary Williams, Mariculture Program Manager
Dianne Villesèche, Quality Management System Program Manager
Espen Johansen, Regenerative Ocean Farm Coordinator
From 2021-2023, Ecotrust Canada facilitated the Sndoyntga Lax Kx’een ada Maxłaxaała urban farm based in a vacant space in the downtown core of Prince Rupert, BC. This demonstration farm proved it was possible to grow fresh produce for those in need while inviting our community to plant, grow, harvest, cook, and preserve fresh, local foods. The urban farm also called attention to many systemic challenges that those working on food security and sovereignty face; the economics of farming at a small scale, the scarcity of funding resources for capacity, and the persistent impacts of colonization.
Through the Sndoyntga Lax Kx’een ada Maxłaxaała urban farm, we developed solid partnerships with the local school district and community initiatives, which are taking the lead in land-based farming projects. We will continue to support our partners in the coming growing seasons but in a limited capacity. If you’d like to hear more about what we accomplished and what we learned, our program evaluation is coming soon.