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Shellfish Opportunity May at Last Bear Fruit

BRITISH COLUMBIA - Don Tillapaugh, Director of Nanaimo's Centre for Shellfish Research says greater investment in British Columbia's shellfish industry will help it realise its true potential.

The industry has expanded and its valuable - worth approximately $34 million. However, the figure is less than half of what was expected in 2002 when the centre opened at Malaspina University-College. Back then the shellfish trade was predicted to have potential value of $100 million and create more than 1,000 jobs in coastal communities.

However, the high value of the dollar, environmental concerns and lower than expected investment has slowed growth and government support - in what could still be a lucrative business.

But a report in The Province says the tide is turning. A resurgence in consumer demand for seafood is fuelling investor interest and it seems the BC shellfish sector is well placed to at last realise its true potential.

"The process of making BC's shellfish aquaculture industry all it can be has begun," Tillapaugh said.

US investment into BC shellfish aquaculture industry is increasing and low profit margin enterprises, may find routes to expand their farms.

The mainstay of BC's shellfish industry was the farming of Pacific oysters and Manila clams, but the Shellfish Development Initiative - set up in 1998 - concluded the coast was ideal for the farming of a host of other shellfish species, including mussels and scallops.

Based on the SDI's findings, the Centre for Shellfish Research, a partnership between Malaspina and the BC Shellfish Growers Association, was established with a mission to help diversify and expand the industry and create healthy and vibrant coastal communities in the province through sustainable shellfish farming.

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Ellen Hardy

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