NANAIMO, B.C. — The Centre for Sturgeon Studies (ICSS) at Vancouver Island University (VIU) is selling cans of smoked sturgeon and fresh fillets to restaurants and retail shops in order to raise awareness of what ICSS does, while also generating revenue to help further fund its research.
White Sturgeon, which has been around for more than 200 million years, is the largest sturgeon species in North America. It can grow up to six metres and has a life expectancy of between 100 and 150 years. The ICSS raises thousands of white sturgeon to the age of two before selling them. Releasing them in the wild is prohibited by federal and provincial laws.
“Our sturgeon are grown in a land-based, closed-containment, re-circulating system used for training our fisheries and aquaculture students, so there’s a local, environmentally friendly, educational aspect to it,” says Jenny Dawson-Coates, a VIU Fish Health Biologist. “It’s also a really nice fish for eating. In other places in the world, it’s a delicacy.”
Restaurants serving VIU’s sturgeon products include the Westwood Bistro in Nanaimo, Pacific Prime Restaurant and Lounge in Parksville and Edible Canada in Vancouver. Cans of smoked sturgeon — processed and smoked locally at St. Jean’s Cannery and Smokehouse — are also available at several local retail shops.
Ian Lane, director of Food and Beverage at Pacific Prime Restaurant, regularly uses VIU’s fresh sturgeon fillets as the eatery’s featured catch of the day.
“Sturgeon is a great, underutilized fish,” he says. “Because it is a sustainable, ethical, local product, we thought it was a great fit for what we want to do at this restaurant.”
At Westwood Bistro, guests can enjoy the smoked product in a risotto-filled crepe with yam cream. The restaurant’s head chef, Kellie Callender, says the VIU sturgeon is a unique, interesting, local product and the proceeds help the university to continue research and education work in the aquatic industry. In addition, many people have expressed a penchant for the product’s great taste.
“Whenever I talk to guests after they’ve had it, they’re really excited to hear where it’s from,” says Callender. “We try to support local farmers and producers as much as possible and that whole message really changes how people feel about coming out to eat.”
Granville Island’s Edible Canada is serving VIU sturgeon in the form of a seafood salad. “At Edible Canada, we are synonymous with sourcing only the best local, sustainable and seasonal products and this was a great way for us to not only help the research program, but also offer our customers an opportunity to enjoy a unique fish that showcases the best of B.C. and is unsung on most local menus,” says Eric Pateman, president of Edible Canada Culinary Experiences Corporation. “Our customers love it for its firmness and flavour.”