Jordan Belveal fishing for rockfish in 2018. (Chelsey Ellis)

Jordan Belveal fishing for rockfish in 2018. (Chelsey Ellis)

Longtime Vancouver Island fishing family hooks into local market over wholesale

Locally caught fish are scarce in fishing towns, an irony one Sointula family is working to change

The lingcod is almost as tall as the boy, a fifth-generation fisherman-in-training on B.C.’s coast. Dad will help haul in the catch, measure and bonk it, clip the gills and keep it chilled with the other fish until they offload at the dock. This squid-eating lingcod will go directly to a local who’s already paid a deposit and is waiting, filet knife ready.

It’s a new way of doing business for Jordan Belveal, a fourth-generation fisherman.

Instead of selling to wholesalers, who almost always export the catch, Belveal and his family are marketing their catch directly to consumers in a new community supported fishery venture called Island Wild Seafoods.

It could be an answer to the perpetual, “Why can’t I buy fresh, local fish?” question, repeated in fishing towns all over Vancouver Island.

The Belveal family, originally from Sointula who now live in Nanaimo, have been fishing for five generations. Captain Grandpa — a.k.a. Adrian Belveal — of the third generation, taught his three sons to fish, and recently returned from a halibut trip with two of his grandchildren, who have both taken up the rod.

The allure of fishing remains the same for Jordan — one of Captain Grandpa’s sons — as he introduces his young son to the reels, but the business model is evolving.

“So many people approach us looking to buy seafood, complaining that they just can’t find halibut, or lingcod or spot prawns or any of the fish we have on the coast, because it just gets exported instantly,” Belveal said.

He estimates 90 per cent of local fish is exported, and 80 per cent of the seafood British Columbians consume is imported. Some large ships spend months fishing off the coast, freezing and packing fish on board, delivering directly to overseas markets without ever touching land.

With each inquiry of where to buy fresh fish, the Belveals thought more about selling it direct. This year, they took the plunge. International markets are in a tailspin because of COVID-19, so it seemed like a perfect time to refocus local.

“We created what’s called a community-supported fishery, similar to community-supported agriculture. We created a following almost overnight. It’s been incredible the community support,” Belveal said.

Members pay a deposit at the beginning of the fishing season, and get a share of the catch each time Belveal’s boat comes in. Some pick up at the dock, and he also does home delivery. So far they have dedicated one boat to the venture, and are already selling the majority of its fish to members. Their goal is to market all their fish independently by next year.

“It’s a lot more rewarding to do, because we’re trying to do smaller trips that have higher quality. So we’re not catching as much per trip, but we’re we’re not selling to a middleman, so it’s a better deal for us and it’s a better deal for the consumers. And the fish they’re getting is way better quality than what they can get at the grocery store.”

READ MORE: Salmon babies in safe haven in north Vancouver Island before hitting open ocean

Island Wild Seafoods is not the first family-owned fishing company to make this change. Skipper Otto started direct sales in 2008 to support one fisherman, Otto Strobel, who is now retired. In its 12 years, Skipper Otto has grown to include 19 independent fishermen and families, with pick-up locations across western Canada and Ontario. Another outfit, Michelle Rose, sells direct to members in Sidney and Cowichan Bay.

With consumer-supported fisheries, fishermen know where their catch ends up and consumers can honestly trace where their fish came from — and sometimes get bonus pictures of the fishing trip. It also provides commercial licence owners the opportunity to make a living apart from global markets.

Do you have something to add to this story or something else we should report on? Email: zoe.ducklow@blackpress.ca


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

fishing

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Lymphedema is often treated with medical devices such as compression garments, pneumatic compression pumps, or specialized custom wraps and bandages. (Submitted photo)
March 6 marks World Lymphedema Day

Lymphedema is caused by damage to the lymphatic system, and afflictings millions worldwide

Work has begun on the Downtown Public Washroom on 1st Avenue. (Submitted photo)
Work has begun on the Ladysmith Downtown Public Washroom

The project is expected to be finished in the spring

An architectural rendering of the five storey condo building at 201/203 Dogwood Drive. (BJK Architecture photo)
Five storey condo building proposal at Dalby’s proceeds to public hearing stage

Frank and Mike Crucil of FMC Holdings are hoping to turn Dalby’s Automotive into a five storey condo

Jimmy Seymour was recognized for his outstanding work as the solid waste operator for Stz’uminus First Nation. (Submitted photo)
‘He has a way with the community’, Jimmy Seymour recognized for his dedication to Stz’uminus First Nation

Jimmy Seymour uses his job as solid waste operator to spread kindness through Stz’uminus

LSS’s Parallel Players are hosting an online improv show. (Parallel Players photo)
Ladysmith Secondary School improv team hosts livestream performance

Perfomances will be held Thursday, March 4 and Friday March 5 at 7 p.m.

The James C Richardson Pipe Band marches in a Remembrance Day parade on Nov. 11, 2019 in Chilliwack. Wednesday, March 10 is International Bagpipe Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of March 7 to 13

International Bagpipe Day, Wash Your Nose Day and Kidney Day are all coming up this week

The Port Alice pulp mill has been dormant since 2015. (North Island Gazette file photo)
Parts recycled, life returning to inlet as as old Port Alice mill decommissioned

Bankruptcy company oversees de-risking the site, water treatment and environmental monitoring

Victoria man Brett Andersen is asking for people’s help to secure him one of eight free tickets to the moon. (Screenshot/@brettandersen Instagram)
Victoria man wants your help securing a free ticket to the moon

Japanese billionaire offering eight people a trip to the moon

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Donald Alan Sweet was once an all star CFL kicker who played for the Montreal Alouettes and Montreal Concordes over a 13-year career. Photo courtesy of Mission RCMP.
Ex-B.C. teacher who was CFL kicker charged with assault, sexual crimes against former students

Donald Sweet taught in Mission School District for 10 years, investigators seek further witnesses

(Black Press Media files)
Medicine gardens help Victoria’s Indigenous kids in care stay culturally connected

Traditional plants brought to the homes of Indigenous kids amid the COVID-19 pandemic

During a press event on March 6, Const. Alex Berube, media relations officer for the West Shore RCMP, addressed a deadly shooting that occurred in Metchosin the night before. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
VIDEO: One man shot dead in ‘targeted incident’ in Metchosin

Highway 14 reopens following multi-hour closure for investigation

Most Read