Supporting Local: Buying Canadian Fish

There are many foods we cannot produce in Canada, that I am not sure I can live without. Coffee and chocolate top the list. We are very lucky to live in Canada because we can grow a bounty of foods like oats, wheat, pulses, and raise beef, pork and chicken. One Canadian food that you may not be buying, but should be is Canadian fish (that is if you don’t have access to fish and catch fresh). The local food movement is really shining the spotlight on the foods we can produce in Canada and Canadian fish are one of the highest in quality, in the world. 

Photo by Clark Young on Unsplash

Why Buy Canadian Fish?

The Canadian environment is well suited to producing fish probably because of our cold northern lakes, wide open spaces, or relatively low pollution. Many Canadians, when buying fish, are not looking to buy local products. In fact, when assessing the types of fish in a common grocery store in Saskatchewan, there were over 30 different types of fish and only 5 were Canadian produced.

Where might you ask are we getting fish from? Vietnam, China, Indonesia, and the United States. Why would we consume fish that has been flown half way around the world and expect to be eating a fresh product? Or maybe the only expectation people have when eating fish is the price? Then how can it be financially feasible that a fish is caught in another country, processed, then flown or floated thousands of miles to Canada where it is loaded onto trucks and distributed across the country? How can fish be produced so cheaply that this is possible? How can we say for certain that the labour to catch and process the fish is being appropriately paid for? How can we say for certain that the fish is produced in an environment as pristine as Canada’s and that production practices are sound? When buying fish you will want to ensure you are getting the freshest and highest quality product that is produced as sustainably as possible. When buying fish you should be choosing local.

“When you choose local you are choosing fresh because you know where it came from and how far it traveled.”  ~ Skipper Otto

What Species of Fish are Canadian?

When most people think of fish the two major types of fish that come to mind are Tuna and Salmon. When you think of Canadian fish that come from lakes you most people would name Northern Pike or Walleye (Pickerel). There are several more types of fish that can be caught locally depending on where you live in Canada. These species include Arctic Char, which can be caught in Nunavut. However, they can also be sources from Alaska or Iceland. This species of fish can also be produced within recirculating aquaculture systems. Lake trout is another option. Lake trout has orange or white flesh depending on the diet, however the flesh can look similar to salmon when raw. Steelhead trout is another option that has orange coloured meat.  Lake white fish is a very mild fish with bright white meat that easily absorbs any seasonings paired with it.  

Farmed vs Wild Caught

The short answer when it comes to comparing which option is better, wild or farmed, really  depends. Properly farmed fish can be a better option than unsustainable harvested wild fish. Land based aquaculture can be a good option if sustainable practices are used. These systems usually grow fish and turn their waste into fertilizer for plants. The goof production model produces both fish and vegetables for consumption. Wild fish from Canadian lakes would have the advantage of eating the foods found naturally in the environment, which may be an advantage. One thing for sure is when buying ocean fish like tuna or salmon you should be looking for eco-labels. These labels are designed to verify that the fish are caught without using unsustainable fishing practices. This usually mean without using large scale fishing nets that can entangle sharks or whales. Look for certifications that state fish was caught by “pole and line” or “one by one” fishing methods. 

Where to Source Canadian Fish?

Many Canadians may want to be choosing local fish, however they  unsure of where to purchase local fish. Here are some sources for local fish for some Canadian provinces.

 

BC:

Skipper Otto is based out of BC, however there are several pickup locations scattered across the country. Check their website to see if they have a pickup location close to you. This company works almost like a subscription and supports local fishing families. They value sustainability and fair wages for the fishing families they work with.

Sask:

Northern Wild Fishery Lake Wollaston which supplies Northern Pike, Walleye (Pickerel), and Lake Trout for the Co-op Gold Pure line.

Fonos Fish is sourced from Dore lake and is processed at Dore Lake. Fish and is sold exclusively through Pine View Farms and includes Pickerel (Walleye), Northern Pike, Burbot, and Lake White Fish.

Ille-A-La Crosse Fish Company: part of the big island fisheries cooperative fish is sourced from Lac Île-à-la-Crosse and processed on the shore. Fish is sold under the Co-op Pure product line.

Alberta:

Deep Water Farms is an aquaponics facility in Calgary that raises Australian Sea Bass and uses micro-organism to convert fish waste into fertilizer for microgreens. The greens are grown without pesticides and the water is recycled back into a closed loop system.

Wild West Steelhead: steelhead is produced in an aquaculture setting on Lake Diefenbaker. Fish is sold under the Pine View Farms brand.

Ontario:

Taylor Fish Company is a small family run business that catches their fish from Lake Erie. FIsh is processed at a plant right at Lake Erie. They sell yellow perch, pickerel (walleye), white fish, silver bass, lake white fish, and catfish.

There are way more local fish companies than listed above, but this will start your search for local fish. Don’t forget to ask your local butcher shop and some places are willing to source local fish if there is demand.

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