New Opportunities for Vancouver Island Seafood Companies



Walcan Seafood, Finest at Sea, and St. Jean’s Cannery & Smokehouse

British Columbia is known for its world-renowned ocean farming that produce a rich harvest of fish and seafood. B.C.’s seafood sector produces more than 100 different types of wild and farmed fish, shellfish and marine plants, which are shipped to markets across Asia, Europe and North America.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, three Vancouver Island seafood companies—Walcan Seafood, Finest at Sea and St. Jean’s Cannery & Smokehouse—faced new challenges that affected their business and sales.

“When COVID hit and we saw a disruption in the supply chain, particularly around restaurants,” said Cameron Pirie, President of Walcan Seafood.

“People were quite concerned at the beginning, that maybe we would be shutting down or they would be without jobs, and in fact, we were actually able to rise up and get all our employees working together and meet new demands,” adds Steve Hughes, President of St. Jean’s Cannery & Smokehouse.

In order to keep their businesses afloat, the seafood companies pivoted their business model from an international approach and started looking at local distribution direct-to-consumer.

“When COVID-19 first hit us in the early spring of 2020, we had to adjust our production schedules to fit what our consumers were telling us,” said Richard McBride, Plant Manager at Finest at Sea . “Our consumers were telling us that they wanted to come for a one-stop shop and be able to feed their family for one week. Instead of doing our usual restaurant fillet production, we gauged more of our production into making ready-to-eat portions and dinner items available daily.”

“In light of all these changes, what I’m most proud of are our Vancouver Island communities—how they’ve pulled together, how we’ve seen people on the floor of our plant work hard to propel us through this, to see more people caring about their neighbours and doing what they can to stay in this together,” said Pirie.

By pivoting and focusing on selling their products to local consumers, these seafood companies were able to leverage new opportunities, meet new demands and successfully reach a new customer market.

“My message to the people of B.C. would be to keep sourcing products and companies that are made in B.C., by people from B.C.,” adds McBride. “It’s okay to ask where your fish, or your beef, or your lettuce comes from because it’s worth it to know there’s a traceability factor.”

Key Takeaways:

  • Talk to your consumers to learn their buying habits and how you can best serve their needs.
  • Opportunities exist, but they might not look like they did before.
  • British Columbians want to stick together. Educate your consumers on where their products come from.

About the Company: Walcan Seafood

Walcan Seafood is a North American wholesale seafood processor of sockeye salmon, B.C. spot prawns, retort salmon and bait herring. Located on Quadra Island, Walcan Seafood continues to efficiently process fisherman’s catches, resulting in a fresh, high-quality, west coast product for their customers.

Location: Vancouver Island
Website: Walcan.com

About the Company: Finest at Sea

Walcan Seafood is a North American wholesale seafood processor of sockeye salmon, B.C. spot prawns, retort salmon and bait herring. Located on Quadra Island, Walcan Seafood continues to efficiently process fisherman’s catches, resulting in a fresh, high-quality, west coast product for their customers.

Location: Vancouver Island
Website: Finestatsea.com

About the Company: St. Jean’s Cannery & Smokehouse

St. Jean’s online and retail stores feature the very best wild smoked salmon, candied salmon, albacore tuna, smoked oysters and hand-packed, canned seafood on the west coast. What started as a backyard canning operation in 1961 is now the largest tuna and salmon cannery in Canada.

Location:Vancouver Island
Website: Stjeans.com


This project was supported by the BC Government’s Buy BC Partnership Program to support the immediate needs of B.C.’s farmers and food and beverage processors as a result of COVID-19.

Learn more about how Buy BC can help you here.