Joel and Melissa Collier, along with their two children, live in Courtenay, BC. Joel is the skipper of his father's boat and supports his family by fishing prawns, salmon and scallops.
Joel started out fishing BC spot prawns and all 5 species of salmon. In fishing, you are always looking out for way to diversify. You never know what any given year may hold, and having options to fish something else during a bad year may save you. This is why we got involved in the swimming scallop fishery.
Joel started fishing swimming scallops in 2017. At this time, no on had been fishing them for several years. With no established market, fish buyers were not interested in buying them. Rather than admitting defeat, Joel and Melissa created West Coast Wild Scallops in order to market and sell their catch.
Selling scallops is much harder than one would think. They were relatively unknown and looked much different than what the average seafood consumer thinks when you hear "scallop". While Joel learned and further developed the fishing method, Melissa took on marketing and sales.
After years of hard work and pounding the payment, they have made some great relationships with retailers, wholesales and local consumers. They plan to continue to build the fishery and their business and hope that one day, swimming scallops will be as well known and sought after as salmon and spot prawns.
Want to know more? Keep reading to learn about Joel's fishing family and the scallop fishery.
Fishing runs in the family!
Great Grandpa and Granny Larson on the Seafarer in the 1920s
Peter and Marilyn Collier (Joel's parents) the day they bought the Lisa Jess, 1990.
Joel learning the ropes from his dad.
Joel is a 4th generation fisherman from a large fishing family on his mother's side. The Larson family has been fishing for close to 100 years. Great Grandpa Larson built the Seafarer while living in the aptly named Larson's Bay located in Lund, BC. We don't know the dates for sure or if he had any fish boats before that. What we do know is that Great Grandpa and Granny Larson were fishing by the time their son Elmer (Joel's Grandpa) was born in 1926. We are hoping that with some more digging, we can find out more about the family history.
Joel's first fishing trip was with his Aunt and Uncle when he was 6 years old on a small double ender called the Eggem. "My favourite part about fishing was that they had Corn Pops on the boat and I got to hang out with my cousins". He continued taking short trips with family throughout his youth until his parents bought their own boat in 1990. From that point on, the Lisa Jess became a home away from home and Joel spent part of every summer fishing with his family.
Joel sought out a career as a Petroleum Engineer, studying at the University of Alberta. This is where he met his wife, Melissa, who was working towards her degree in Animal Biology. After graduating, they spent several years working in the Oil and Gas industry in Alberta. Melissa followed her career to the coast taking her to Vancouver, and then eventually allowing them to return to Joel's home town of Black Creek, BC. Even during this time, Joel would occasionally return home and help his dad on the boat.
In 2015, the Oil Industry took a significant down turn and Joel decided it was a good time to try out the family business. With Peter by his side, Joel learned the ropes and gradually took over the family fishing business.
Check out our "Its All in the Family Gallery" on our Photo Galleries page to see some great photos of Joel and his family fishing over the generations.
The Scallop Fishery
The harvest of scallops began as an experimental fishery in 2001. Joel’s Aunt and Uncle were a part of the experimental fishery and were dedicated to developing environmentally sound fishing practices. By 2009 Fisheries and Oceans Canada began the process of developing an Integrated Fisheries Management Plan (IFMP) for the commercial harvest of scallops.
Joel stared his fishing life fishing for spot prawns and salmon. However, it's getting increasingly harder to earn a living while covering the costs of fishing. Because of this, Joel is always on the look out for potential opportunities. He was familiar with the swimming scallop fishery and had deckhanded for his Aunt and Uncle a couple times. Through his Uncle, he was given the opportunity to get involved. Joel started participating in the IFMP process in 2015 and began fishing scallops commercially with his Uncle in 2017.
After creating West Coast Wild scallops, Melissa left her career as an Aquatic Biologist to support Joel with the fishing business. They two of them together make quite the team. Joel is constantly innovating and further developing the fishing method. From gear modifications to freezing at sea, he is always trying to find ways improve to ensure he can produce the highest quality seafood possible. Meanwhile Melissa is busy working behind the scene trying to find new ways to connect to seafood lovers.
The fishery itself is very well managed and continues to be a small scale artisanal fishery. There are only 6 licenses with 2-3 currently active. Various controls are in place to ensure sustainability including size limits and biology-based quotas which are obtained through biannual biomass surveys. To ensure food safety, the fishermen fund routine biotoxin testing and Joel and Melissa are CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency) certified to freeze thier scallops at sea.
You can learn more about the fishery by reading the Integrated Fisheries Management Plan, and by reading the sustainability assessment report by Seafood Watch.