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Malcolm Island Shellfish Co-operative
By Lindsay Kane, CEDTAP volunteer

At Malcolm Island Shellfish Co-operative, the motto is not only should you give a man a fish, but you should also teach him how to fish.

In 1996, Federal Fisheries Minister Fred Mifflin imposed the Mifflin Plan. This plan made major cuts to commercial fishing fleets, where an estimated 36,000 jobs were lost. These cuts affected small operators in particular. Consequently, numerous coastal communities suffered devastating economic effects. Tax base support for community infrastructures and programs was drastically reduced. Families and youth began leaving communities in search of employment. Several elders described themselves as alienated, due to their lack of education, and therefore inability to adjust to other forms of employment. Also, statistics indicated that the stress levels of local residents were skyrocketing, attributing to depression, substance abuse and family breakdowns. Thankfully, new initiatives were created to reverse these problems. Many of these initiatives focused on the community, economy, environment and social sustainability. One such initiative was called “Malcolm Island Shellfish Co-operative” (MISC).

MISC, incorporated in 1999, is located in Sointula on Malcolm Island, off North Vancouver Island. Some of the island’s local residents formed MISC in 1997, as an attempt to find a solution to the commercial fishing cutbacks. MISC deals with Abalone shellfish. Abalone, which are endangered species, usually take five years to grow to maturity. Pinto Abalone are the type grown on Malcolm Island. Once grown to maturity, the Pinto abalone can sell for up to $80/lb, as a result of markt scarcity.

From the start, MISC’s mission has been to “successfully develop the Abalone farm through the development of skills and technologies that can be taught to local residents and shared with First Nations partners and learning institutions.” Thus it was clear that MISC was an organization with multiple concerns. It wished to develop numerous successful Abalone farms, firstly, to increase the chances of eventually removing the Pinto from the endangered species list. Secondly, by growing, harvesting, and marketing Abalone, MISC wanted to create long-term sustainable employment and economic growth for Malcolm Island. Thirdly, it wanted to share its knowledge and expertise with other coastal communities, ideally improving the economy of the entire northern coast.

Many of the island’s residents share MISC’s concerns and approximately 10% of the residents of Malcolm Island own MISC shares. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Semianmoo First Nations, and Community Economic Development Technical Assistance Program (CEDTAP) have been considerable supporters and/or partners.

CEDTAP allocated $38,381 to MISC, for two different technical assistance programs, over the course of two years. In 2002, CEDTAP provided MISC with an editor who completed a text concerning their learning modules and various pre-existing materials. MISC was also provided funding for a graphic designer to assist with media illustrations and layout. In 2003, CEDTAP provided funding for an expert from Haliotech (an Australian based consulting company, specializing in Abalone culture) to help with the creation of a policy manual. This manual was to be used to teach MISC staff and volunteers about Abalone spawning and to discourage mortality. Additionally, Haliotech helped with the creation of MISC presentation models, for educational and promotional purposes. MISC has indicated that this assistance has been of great help to the survival and viability of their operations, both for teaching and fundraising purposes. As a result, MISC has been better able to “teach a man how to fish.”

If you wish to know more information about MISC, please phone #205-973-6478, visit 430 First St., Sointula, BC, or email or

This project has been funded with the generous support of the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) Foundation.


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