Over the decades, B.C. fishermen have had to come up with inventive ways to adapt to ever-changing market conditions and survive financially. The COVID-19 crisis has proved no different.
About 10 years ago, a group of fishermen banded together to shore up their livelihoods. They sough to connect the province’s top seafood producers with chefs who prioritized working with fresh, high-quality, sustainable fish.
They formed Organic Ocean. Since then, some of the top culinary talents at home and abroad, including chefs working in Michelin-starred restaurants, have turned to the group for B.C. seafood.
“In addition to wild-harvested fish, Organic Ocean branched into responsibly cultured seafood, as well as products supplied by Indigenous fisheries on the strict proviso that everything needed to meet the highest sustainability and socially responsible production standards,” says Organic Ocean’s Steve Johansen.
Once COVID-19 hit, nearly every market for the company's seafood stopped operating.
Instead of laying everyone off, the team pivoted. It came up with a way to make premium seafood available to individuals on an affordable basis via wholesale prices and contactless, refrigerated home delivery. It’s now delivering throughout Metro Vancouver and Greater Toronto, keeping fishermen, drivers, and other workers employed.
The first seafood supplier in the world to provide DNA certification of its products’ authenticity, Organic Ocean is producing prepackaged kits of 100-percent sustainable seafood.
The You’re Shrimply the Best Prawn Pack, for example, contains a pound each of wild B.C. side-stripe shrimp tails, spot prawn tails, and humpback shrimp tails, as well as wild blue shrimp ($87.72).
The Wild West Pack contains 10 pieces of wild sockeye salmon, 200 grams of wild B.C. sockeye-salmon lox, close to 500 grams of wild B.C. salmon candy, and a 160-gram can of Babine Select smoked sockeye salmon, all Ocean Wise ($115.72).
There are smaller options for singles and larger ones for families. Other types of meal-ready fish include sablefish, ling cod, and halibut.
Leading chefs such as Takayuki Omi of Fairmont Pacific Rim, the Fish Counter’s Rob Clark (an Ocean Wise founding chef), and Pino Posteraro of Cioppino’s Mediterranean Grill and Enoteca have shared short videos with cooking tips and suggestions on the Organic Ocean website.
The company has also launched its Neighbours Helping Neighbours program to help people in need amid the global pandemic. It started out by donating enough seafood to social enterprise Goodly Foods Society to make approximately 10,000 meals available to the residents of the Downtown Eastside.
“Many people stood up to support this initiative,” Johansen said. “Fisherman Jeff Belveal volunteered to run his boat 30 hours to the West Coast of Vancouver Island, with only his 17-year-old son as crew, to harvest 3,000 pounds of lingcod. Then the team at Coldfish Seafood worked overtime to portion the fish so that it could be quickly distributed to those in need.”
In addition to Goodly Foods Society, Organic Ocean is partnering with the Squamish Food Bank and the Stop Community Food Centre in Toronto.
In B.C., Organic Ocean delivers to West Vancouver, North Vancouver, Vancouver, Burnaby, Richmond, New Westminster, Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody, Pitt Meadows, Delta, Surrey, White Rock, Maple Ridge, Langley, and Squamish. Pickup is available on Saturdays from its False Creek location.
In the GTA, it delivers to Toronto, Scarborough, Richmond Hill, Vaughan, Concord, Brampton, Mississauga, Milton, Oakville, and Etobicoke.
For more info, swim on over to Organic Ocean.