“Our unique research will help industry optimize production and maximize revenue. We’re figuring out that you can grow sturgeon in aquaculture conditions fairly successfully. Because of its meat qualities and the market demand for it, we think it’s a huge opportunity for B.C. to grow a sturgeon industry.” Don Tillapaugh, Director of the ICSS
In recent years, the commercial sturgeon aquaculture industry has been demonstrating important growth worldwide. Vancouver Island, with its expertise in the global aquaculture industry, had not been capitalizing on these opportunities. White Sturgeon are an endangered species with no possibility of a wild stock industry, yet demand for products like their smoked meat, caviar, oil and leather is on the rise. To continue developing sturgeon conservation research, Vancouver Island University had reached a stage that required facilities expansion.
Culturing Fraser River White Sturgeon since the mid 1980s, Vancouver Island University wanted to expand the sturgeon aquaculture industry and develop a hub for knowledge and innovation. To do this, they proposed building a state of the art 13,000 square foot International Centre for Sturgeon Studies at the VIU in Nanaimo following a model of academic and industrial partnerships established in North American sturgeon aquaculture.
Finished in January 2011, the International Centre for Sturgeon Studies hosted the World Sturgeon Conservation Society annual meeting in 2011 and the seventh International Symposium on Sturgeon in 2013, proving the ICSS is a leader in its field. The only dedicated sturgeon science facility in North America attracts over 1,000 visitors per year to their hatcheries which house live fish at all stages of development. The transfer of technology to business has resulted in the development of successful new sturgeon aquaculture businesses in the region, such as Target Marine Hatcheries on the Sunshine Coast, Canada’s only producer of organic, certified white sturgeon. It is expected that this new, high-value niche seafood industry will continue to create new permanent jobs and new investment opportunities throughout the region.