Sheshegwaning First Nation installing fish net pens

Plan to have first rainbow trout harvest by Christmas

SHESHEGWANING—In front of many of its community members, Odawa Island Farms welcomed the first load of 25,000 trout fingerlings that were transferred from a tractor-trailer into a net in the harbour to be raised in cages this summer.

“Odawa Island Farms was co-founded in 2016 by Sheshegwaning First Nation and John O. Foods,” said Sheshegwaning Chief Alana Endanawas. “This is a joint equity partnership to raise fish ethically and sustainably in Bayfield Sound.”

Chief Endanawas noted, “over the last six years, we’ve been engineering and testing the technology, while continuing to grow the farm to commercial scale.”

RJ Taylor (of Cedar Crest Trout Farms), who has been working on the project for the past two years said, “John O. Foods is a fairly large fish processor of fish like walleye, perch and whitefish. Expanding to Manitoulin Island was about partnering and raising more fish.”

The fish cages are located off a harbour in an area of Bayfield Sound. Two more additional cages will be installed this year, said Mr. Taylor.

“These are among the first net-pens in Ontario that are off-shore and submersible,” said Chief Endanawas. “This means they are located out in the fast currents, and they can be put under the surface to protect the fish from ice and hot temperatures.”

“They (net pens) start 600 feet offshore. We can run the airlines and feedlines from shore,” said Mr. Taylor. Each cage can hold 100,000 fish. We are putting the first 25,000 in,” said Mr. Taylor, who pointed out four people are employed through the joint project venture. He noted that when the fish are first put in the cages they are about 100 grams and they are raised for harvest at about 2.83 pounds.

“We’ll be stocking five pens this spring with rainbow trout,” said Chief Endanawas. “These trout will be grown all summer and fall and will be harvested before Christmas.”

“We are very interested in protecting the lands and waters of Sheshegwaning First Nation,” continued Chief Endanawas. She explained the farm has a rigorous environmental monitoring program, “and to date we have not seen any negative impacts on the surrounding ecosystem.”

“Last year the farm secured best aquaculture practices, an internationally recognized eco-certification. An auditor came on site to make sure we were raising fish in the best interests of the environment, their welfare, our staff and our community,” said Chief Endanawas.

At the May 16 event, the community of Sheshegwaning and the team at Odawa Island Farms came together for an opening ceremony. The first load of 25,000 rainbow trout fingerlings was transferred from a tractor/trailer into a net in the harbour.

“We attached a pipe to the bottom of the tanks on the truck, pulled open the valves and watched them rush out,” explained Chief Endanawas.

Elders joined from the community to lead a welcoming prayer and smudge to invite a good growing season.