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Discover the Journey of the GwiGwi Oyster: A Sustainable Shellfish Farm Tour

With K’awat’si Shellfish

A Day out with K'awat'si Shellfish

Welcome to the serene world of K’awat’si Shellfish, located in the remote waters of North Vancouver Island, within the traditional territory of the Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw Nations. Embark on an educational and scenic tour to witness sustainable shellfish cultivation in action.

Morning Beginnings on the Dock in Port hardy, BC

Our tour launches at dawn from Port Hardy’s own, Hardy Bay’s Fisherman’s Wharf, where safety is paramount. Join our dedicated K’awat’si Shellfish crew as we navigate to Treadwell Bay, the heart of our sustainable aquaculture practices.

Exploring Treadwell Bay's Aquaculture Marvels & Sustainable Oyster Farm

As the shellfish workers and boat captain prepare to head out on the open water – they put safety at the forefront, making sure all crew members are briefed beforehand. Most early mornings on the North Island are greeted with rain, but that doesn’t stop these hard workers from getting the job done. As the boat departs from the Fisherman’s Wharf dock located in the inner basin of Hardy Bay, we begin our hour-long journey towards the aquaculture farm headquarters in Treadwell Bay. 

boat captain driving a boat

Discovering Our Aquaculture Farm

Nestled in Treadwell Bay lies our K’awat’si Shellfish aquaculture farm. It’s here that the magic happens, where we cultivate and nurture our oysters. As you step onto the farm, you’ll be welcomed by the crisp, salty breeze and surrounded by old-growth forests that tower along the shoreline. First, our crews pull up to our floating cabin and storage facilities, which contain everything the workers need to stay on-site and perform their job of cultivating some of the finest oysters British Columbia has to offer. 

aquaculture farm in the ocean

Behind the Scenes: Prepping and Monitoring

Next, our dedicated team shows the intricate process of oyster cultivation. Here we learn firsthand how the GwiGwi oysters get their flavour. The crew pulls up to the raft systems and begins to show how we clean, prep, and meticulously monitor the oysters, ensuring they receive the care and attention they deserve. From their early stages to maturity, our oysters are taken care of with the utmost precision, guaranteeing an unmatched quality and texture that reflects the purity of these pristine waters. 

Using innovative shellfish farming methods and equipment, the workers run each tray of oysters through the tumbler that cleans them thoroughly – where they will then be sorted, graded, and placed back into trays to continue their growing cycle beneath the water.

At K’awat’si Shellfish, we’ve adopted a method that utilizes rafts at deepwater locations to suspend culture systems, a crucial practice in our oyster cultivation. These suspended tray systems play a pivotal role as nurseries for our young oysters, while also serving as a platform for nurturing oyster growth. We’re proud to embrace the globally acclaimed “off-bottom” approach, recognized as one of the most productive farming methods available. This method embodies our unwavering dedication to excellence and sustainability, ensuring that we deliver the highest-quality shellfish from the pristine waters of British Columbia’s west coast straight to your plate.

K'awat'si Shellfish Workers handling freshly harvested oysters in black baskets at K'awat'si Shellfish farm in Tribune Bay, located in Gwa'sala-'Nakwaxda'xw Nations Traditional Territory on a cloudy day.

Harvesting the Bounty

The journey from a tiny oyster seed to a delectable, ready-to-harvest oyster is a testament to patience and precision. Our oysters undergo a carefully managed growth process that typically spans several years. It all begins with the seeding of juvenile oysters onto our suspended tray systems in the pristine waters of British Columbia’s west coast. From there, these oysters are nurtured, fed, and meticulously monitored as they grow and mature. The exact duration can vary depending on various factors, including water temperature and nutrient availability, but on average, it takes about three to five years for our oysters to reach their peak of succulence. This extended period allows them to develop their unique flavours and textures, ensuring that each oyster we harvest is a true cold-water treasure, worthy of gracing your palate. When ready for market, our team ensures the quality and safety and transports them back to Port Hardy for final processing and packaging. 

a bag of fresh K'awat'si Shellfish oysters on a table.

Ending off our Aquaculture Tour

As we conclude our tour and journey back home by boat, you’ll have the opportunity to witness the heart and soul of k’awat’si Shellfish – our hardworking and dedicated workers. These individuals are the backbone of our operation, tirelessly tending to our shellfish farms day in and day out, ensuring that every oyster reaches their full potential. Their passion for their craft, combined with their deep connection to the land and sea, is truly inspiring. It’s their unwavering commitment that allows us to bring the cold-water treasures of the central coast to your table, and as we sail back, we invite you to join us in acknowledging the vital role they play in making this journey possible.

Shellfish workers looking out at the oyster farm.