Workers at the Bras d'Or Lakes trout farm. Photo: Canadian government.

Cooke to help build trout brand for First Nation

Atlantic Canada-based salmon farmer Cooke Aquaculture has reached a deal to market and sell steelhead trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) grown by the We’koqma’q First Nation of Nova Scotia.

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“Our people have lived and flourished on the shores of the Bras d’Or Lakes for over 13,500 years, sustainably living and producing food in and around the Lakes for generations,” said We’koqma’q First Nation Chief Rod Googoo in a press release.

“The Cooke family business shares our belief that aquaculture can be developed in a manner that protects and preserves the environment for future generations.

“We believe this relationship with Cooke Aquaculture will help us further develop our Bras d’Or Lakes grown steelhead trout into a recognised brand, enhancing our economy and creating opportunities for our community for years to come.”

Collaborative relationship

Cooke chief executive Glenn Cooke said: “We’koqma’q First Nation has shown leadership among First Nations in its approach to commercial fishing, and we look forward to sharing our best practices to further support We’koqma’q in becoming a leader in aquaculture fish farming development.

“We’re looking forward to a collaborative and productive relationship that will bring this world-class steelhead trout product to consumers.”

We’koqma’q First Nation, a historic Mi’kmaq community, is located along the shores of the Bras d’Or Lakes, an inland sea of partially fresh/salt water in the centre of Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia.

The area is home to many successful fishing enterprises. We’koqma’q First Nation employs over 35 community members in the commercial fishery and over 50 community members in the aquaculture business. 

BAP certification

A trout farm was re-established in We’koqma’q in 2011 and harvesting and marketing of current production began yesterday.

In April the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency announced that the Canadian government was providing Can$217,687 to the We’koqma’q First Nation to help it obtain Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) certification for the fish farm. The provincial government invested a further Can$100,000.

Cooke, which farms salmon in Canada, Scotland, Chile and the United States, has its own interest in farming trout on the other side of north America.

It has applied to farm steelhead, a native species, at its sites in Washington state after legislators there banned the farming of non-native Atlantic salmon from 2022.