• Seafest – Gorge Harbour Marina

    Cortes Island, BC

  • Shellfish Interpretive Center

    Located in Squirrel Cove

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A History of Cortes Island Shellfish
By Marcel Creurer – reviewed by Kathy Francis

Time Line

Antiquity – * Klahoose and Sliammon peoples harvest clams and rock oysters; cultivate clam gardens – our first evidence of shellfish aquaculture on Cortes.

1895 – * R.E. Palmer discovers oyster beds in Von Donop and Carrington, and harvests them for the Vancouver and Victoria markets.

1899 – * Atlantic oysters shipped to B.C. in an attempt to develop a viable oyster industry.

Early 1900’s – * Granny Hague and her son-in-law, Delmark Lowe, set up a clam cannery in Mansons Lagoon.

1912 – * Japanese (Pacific) oysters introduced to the American west coast.

1920 – 1980 – * Butter clams are B.C.’s major bivalve export.

1926 – * First large quantity of Pacific oysters shipped to B.C. from Japan.

1938 – * Harry and Teresa Daniels operate the first known Pacific Oyster lease in Von Donop; they construct inter-tidal pools for growing oysters.

1950 – * Pendrell Sound set aside as preserve to protect natural setting grounds.

1950’s -‘60’s -*Cortes beaches thick with oysters – sporadic shipments of huge quantities of oysters shipped by barge to shucking plants in Okeover, Sooke and Baynes Sound.

1960’s – * Wes Parry operates a seed collection operation in Pendrell Sound.

1969 – * The ferry comes to Cortes – changes transportation methods.

1970’s – * Oyster farmers begin experimenting with off-bottom culture techniques.

1972 – * The French place an order for 200 tonnes of oyster brood stock.
* The Cortes Island Shellfish Co-op is formed.
* A three year moratorium is placed on shellfish leases on Cortes Island – thought to be the first move of its kind in Canada.

1974 – * Mansons Landing Provincial Park is established, and Mansons Lagoon becomes off-limits for wild fisheries.

1977 – * A group of UBC grad students experiment in Carrington Lagoon.

1978 – * Jimmy Hansen builds processing plant in Mansons.

1979 – * Redonda Sea Farms (RSF) begins operation in Refuge Cove.
Late 1970’s – * Oyster stocks declining rapidly, and many beaches around Cortes are picked clean.
1982 – * Don Melnechenko, along with RSF, designs and builds the first oyster raft using foam floatation.

1985 – * RSF builds seed setting facility in Squirrel Cove.
* RSF buys plant in Lund, and set up freezer operation.
* The market for butter clams collapses in favour of steamer clams (Littleneck & Manila clams.)

1987 – * RSF buys Manson plant from Jimmy and Diane, and expand it.
* Nor-Lite Seafood sets up in Redonda Bay.

1989 – * Area based licensing introduced by the government for wild clam fisheries.

1993 – *Brazilian oyster farmers work with Cortes farmers as part of the Brazilian Mariculture Linkage Program initiated by Jack Littlepage of U. Vic.
* Von Donop declared a Marine Park, and becomes off-limits for wild fisheries.
*The Cortes Island Seafood Association is formed; concerned over the possible pollution of our waters from biotoxins being dumped into the water, they take on the Powell River pulp mills..

1994 – * Local farmers design and build high volume oyster harvesters.
* Many new jobs are created through contract harvesting and contract stringing operations.

1995 – * Setting plant in Squirrel Cove is shut down.
* RSF buys 50% interest in Fanny Bay Oysters.
* Desolation Sound Oysters builds the “flupsy,” a high volume single seed grow-out operation.

1997 – * Hostile take-over of RSF by Fanny Bay Oysters;
* The Mansons plant is shut down permanently.
* The Lund freezing plant is shut down.
* Tenant farmers are threatened with expulsion from their leases.

1998 – * The CISG Co-op is formed, and obtain lease in Teakerne Arm.
* Many tenant farmers negotiate to purchase their leases from Fanny Bay Oysters.
* The Bee Islets Growers Corporation (Big-C) is formed by a group of local growers, and purchase the lease in the Gorge.
* License limitations are imposed on the wild clam harvest by the government, drastically reducing the number of licenses issued.
* The Provincial government commits to doubling the amount of crown land available for shellfish aquaculture to 42.3 sq. km. within the next ten years.

Posted by Marcel Creurer – reviewed by Kathy Francis

We have not been able to talk to everyone involved, so if you have any corrections/additions you would like to see please contact Marcel at 250-935-6681