Canadian aquaculture is growing despite talent challenges

By Fran Roberts

Canada’s seafood farmers produced a solid year of sustainable growth and many new jobs in 2016 according to a new report from the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance (CAIA).

The report, Sustainable, Diverse and Growing – the State of Farmed Seafood in Canada 2017, shows revenues reached CA$1.35bn last year.

This contributed to an economic impact of CA$5.1bn, with the number of people employed totalling 25,040, including indigenous participation across the country.

Revenues in 2016 totalled CA$1.347bn, up from CA$918mn in 2015, while farmed seafood production was 200,565 tonnes – up from 190,111 in 2015. Exports last year totalled CA$1bn.

Despite this growth, aquaculture is still a niche industry and many employers are finding it a challenge to attract skilled talent.


“You can’t straight up advertise for aquaculture engineers because there’s no real expertise in that field,” explained Rob Walker, COO at AgriMarine Technologies.

“We’ve hired a number of people out of the University of Victoria. They have a really good co-op programme there and so we’ve hired people on a short-term basis doing the co-op programmes for four months at a time and then I’ve been able to select some really top performers from that group.”

The rural location of much of the aquaculture industry is also challenge in attracting talent

“We’re somewhat remote and it’s a small community. Most of the people there are not aquaculture people, they’re in forestry or other industries.

“They don’t have much of an interest in working in our industry so our labour pool is already small,” Walker said.

“We’ve been able to attract quite a few good people so we have a really strong core of people and we continue to advertise and bring people in, we trial them and see.

“Aquaculture’s an industry that’s not for everyone but for those who love fish and love the outdoors, it’s an amazing industry, it’s a growth industry.”


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