British Columbia

Salmon Farmers Donate Equivalent of 200,000 meals to Food Banks BC

Salmon farmers in BC have joined forces to help the province’s food banks feed families during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Companies including Grieg Seafood BC, Cermaq Canada, Mowi Canada West, Creative Salmon and Golden Eagle Aquaculture are donating roughly 60,000 pounds of salmon to food banks that are seeing increased demand due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

“This is a time for all industries to step up and support those most effected by COVID-19, and that’s exactly what BC’s salmon farmers are doing,” says John Paul Fraser, Executive Director of the BC Salmon Farmers Association. “Working with Food Banks Canada and Food Banks BC, we’re delighted to partner with BC-based businesses to can, process and transport BC farm-raised salmon, providing families with healthy protein produced here in the province.”

Food banks in BC help nearly 100,000 individuals each month, and say they expect an increase in demand to last beyond the pandemic as the economy slowly bounces back.

“In some instances, numbers have already doubled and we’re seeing line ups grow longer, yet food donations are down. Some people who were donors are now food bank recipients,” says Laura Lansink, Executive Director of Food Banks BC. “It’s a very stressful situation for our food banks and we anticipate we will feel the repercussions of this for one or two years into the future.”

Working together, salmon farmers are donating around 86,000 cans and 16,000 pounds of fresh salmon to be distributed to food banks across the province where it’s needed most.

New approaches to a new challenge

Due to the pandemic many food banks are shifting their distribution towards pre-packaged, shelf-stable foods that require less volunteer or client handling of products.

To accommodate this, Cermaq and Grieg approached St. Jean’s Cannery & Smokehouse (owned by Nuu-chah-nulth Seafood) in Nanaimo to can their fish for this donation.

“It was important for us to carefully consider the current situation and try a new approach, like canning, which makes our salmon easier to store, ship and handle,” says David Kiemele, Managing Director of Cermaq Canada and Chair of the BC Salmon Farmers Association.

“We know that a lot of people, families and communities have been financially impacted by the current COVID-19 pandemic, and we are happy to be able to supply food banks with over 30,000 pounds, which is equivalent to approximately 62,000 cans of responsibly farmed Cermaq salmon. We would like to thank Nuu-chah-nulth Seafood for canning our fish during an especially busy period for their operations.”

For its part, Grieg will be donating 24,000 cans of salmon.

“There isn’t one person who’s not impacted by this pandemic. Every individual or business has the ability to help out in some way, whether that’s making surgical masks, hand sanitizer or simply practicing social distancing,” added Rocky Boschman, Managing Director of Grieg Seafood. “As salmon farmers, providing meals for families in need is where we can help, and for Grieg, donating cans of our salmon is a small ask during a big crisis.”

In early April, Mowi began distributing one-pound portions of Atlantic salmon to food banks in Campbell River and Port Hardy, donating 1,000 pounds a week. They have partnered with a Port Hardy company, Hardy Buoys Smoked Fish, to produce around 16,000 pounds of portions in the coming months for weekly delivery.

“These are challenging times for everyone. For the individuals and families in our communities who are struggling to put food on the table, foodbanks, soup kitchens and other support organizations play such an important role,” says Diane Morrison, Managing Director of Mowi Canada West.

“We are pleased to be able to provide them with support as we go through this crisis. During difficult days, communities come together, and we are proud to do our part.”

Pacific salmon farmers pitching in across BC

On the west coast of Vancouver Island, Creative Salmon farms organic chinook salmon. Working with Coastwise Processors, Creative is currently planning a canned salmon donation to help support food distribution efforts in the Tofino and Ucluelet area.

Golden Eagle Aquaculture, which operates a land-based salmon farm near Agassiz, has also committed to this industry donation by supplying four cases of its coho salmon to food banks on Vancouver Island.

“As food producers, we feel that the right thing to do is to ensure that families can access nutritious sources of protein,” says Terry Brooks, president of Golden Eagle Aquaculture. “We are all in this together, and we hope to help our community out by contributing the coho salmon we raise.”

Together, these five companies will provide the equivalent of over 200,000 meals for British Columbians, and Aquatrans Distributors Inc. is helping the meals get to those homes.

Ryan Brush, General Manager of Aquatrans in Delta, has been helping food banks on the Lower Mainland for years. When he heard about this BCSFA initiative, he made sure that a large majority of transportation costs would be covered by Aquatrans from the start.

This included the transport of salmon to Nanaimo for canning, as well as from St. Jean’s to three food bank hubs on the Island and the Lower Mainland. For the two hubs that lay outside of Aquatrans’ boundary, they arranged for a third-party distributor to get the canned salmon there.

“Aquatrans is grateful to be working with incredible companies that can come together and do good in a time when there is not a lot of good news,” Brush says. “We feel the food bank is an invaluable resource that we are proud to support.”

Mowi has committed to continue its weekly donations of fillets for the length of the COVID-19 crisis. Cermaq and Grieg’s salmon will be distributed to BC food banks by the end of April.

“I have been with Food Banks BC for nearly a decade and I have never received a donation like this before,” Lansink adds. “Protein donations truly are hard to come by, so we are so grateful to BC salmon farmers for stepping up, particularly at this time of COVID-19 when food, and especially protein, is in such short supply. This donation will make a tremendous impact on the individuals, families and children who simply can’t always afford to put food on their tables.”

“It’s not just the salmon we’re thankful for – it’s that you noticed, and you cared.”

More information

  • One in every three food bank recipients in BC is a child.
  • Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 50 per cent of British Columbians lived paycheque to paycheque
  • Cermaq Canada is donating approximately 62,000 cans of salmon, with Grieg Seafood donating 24,000, and Mowi contributing more than 16,000 lbs of fillets.
  • Mowi has committed to continue its weekly donations of fillets for the length of the COVID-19 crisis. Cermaq and Grieg’s salmon is currently in the canning process and will be ready for distribution to BC food banks by the end of April.
  • Properly stored, canned salmon has a shelf life of three to five years.
  • In March, Cermaq, Grieg and Mowi donated barrels of Hydrogen Peroxide to Shelter Point Distillery to help create hand sanitizer for frontline workers on the North-Central Island

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