Paul Simpson founded Island Sea Farms Inc. in 1996 with a diving friend and built a small hatchery on Saltspring Island. The business grows Saltspring Mussels, a premium, deep-water, rope-cultured mussel. They operate land-based hatchery and deep-water shellfish farms in the north and south Gulf Islands of British Columbia, Canada.
Today hatchery and nursery operations on Salt Spring Island are run by a team of award winning professional marine biologists which in addition to operational duties conducts word leading research and cooperates with many universities on understanding and protecting our marine environment.
Sea-based farm operations have expanded to include the waters surrounding beautiful Cortes Island in Desolation Sound. Island Sea Farms, with 20 full time employees, is the pioneer of BC mussels shipping twice weekly year-round to discerning customers and outright mussel maniacs in North America. Our collective dream; to make nutritious, plump and sweet mussels grown year-round for seafood lovers from rural Canadian to glitzy restaurants in L.A. to Tokyo’s Tsukiji Fish Market – this has become our reality! We hope that we can please your customers as well.
Saltspring Island is one of many jewel-like islets that spread along the coast of British Columbia and dot its straights, inlets and fjords.
Like most of the inhabited islands of Georgia Strait, Saltspring has a rural history of farming and fishing going back over 100 years and is home to fiercely independent people who are very connected to the surrounding waters of Georgia Straight – known as the Salish Sea.
The Waters We Farm
These pristine waters surrounding the Gulf Islands are unique in the abundance of nutrients provided by the Japanese “kuroshio” current, upwelling from the continental shelf and the myriad of streams draining the coastal rain forest during our very stormy winters.
Spring through autumn, sunshine and these nutrients collide, resulting in an amazing explosion of phyto-plankton and zoo-plankton unrivaled anywhere in the world. Saltspring Island Mussels grow plump and sweet in these waters and nowhere is more true than in shellfish culture.
The unique blend of these single cell plants produces an amazing sweetness, measured by a very high glycogen content, very high protein and omega 3 levels similar to salmon. Our plumpness is a result of a combination of these very rich waters and almost 20 years of developing brood stock in the hatchery where family lines are developed and seeded in a constant search for the perfect mussel.
Saltspring Island is the center for the organic movement in British Columbia with many back-to basics farmers who don’t just pay lip service to environmental issues but live them everyday.
We are the same. Our rope-gown deep-water farming methods are 100% natural, use no chemicals or any other additives and only biodegradable materials.
We are active in the movement to establish organic standard for British Columbia aquaculture.
Our High Tech Hatchery
However traditional our philosophy and farming methods are we are very high-tech in our seed production. Our hatchery is on the cutting edge of mussel seed research and is one of the only dedicated mussel hatcheries in the world. We regularly work with the Government of Canada and universities on research projects to improve the seed we send to the farm.
Saltspring Island Mussels are the result of many years of breeding the choicest varieties of Mytilus of blue mussels (Mediterranean mussel – Mytilus galloprovincilis and the Atlantic Blue mussel –Mytilus edulis).
These variety hybrids have improved our sweetness and plumpness beyond what we ever though were achievable and we are very proud of our hatchery technical team.
The challenge now is to create strains that spawn at various times of the year in order for us to meet customer needs of a sweet, fat mussel year round. Ever the island optimists we believe we are very close!
Our Island Sea Farms team of farm and hatchery staff is entirely from these islands. Our hatchery staff, Grant and Ingrid, all come home after spending many years off-island to work is some of the most sophisticated hatcheries in the world. Many of our key farm staff are fifth generation islanders or local First-Peoples as is Ron, our Farm Operations Manager.
Paul Simpson, founder and President, has been working among the islands most of his life from oystering, commercial fishing to tug boat deckhand. Paul has also did his fisheries economics graduate research at a university in Japan where he continued to worked in fisheries for more than a decade.