Students at Deep Bay Marine Station

CSI's Oyster Challenge

When both COVID-19 and a severe labour shortage struck BC’s seafood industry, CSI didn’t see an industry challenge: it saw an opportunity.

CSI knew that the closure of BC restaurants during the pandemic had reduced the demand for fresh oysters — and that severe labour  shortages also meant skilled oyster shuckers were in short supply.

These unexpected challenges to the market demanded innovative alternatives.

To address them, CSI turned to HPP Canada, a BC company providing high-pressure processing to the food industry, to physiologically ‘shuck’ oyster meat from its shell for the development of recipes to be used in BC institutions.

CSI then challenged VIU culinary students in a semester-long project to learn about the food system and to create new oyster products in the process. Through this experiential learning, the students became frontline food system innovators — with an expanded view of food processing and career opportunities.

The collaboration culminated in the Centre’s Grand Opening on November 8, 2021 and its high-profile Oyster Challenge, judged by a panel of seafood experts and Minister of Agriculture, Food Lana Popham.

Oyster Challenge participant Ty Tich Tran won the competition with his Smoked Oyster Roll and Smoked Oyster Salad Dressing. He noted his love for seafood products, adding, “By having a good foundation about these industries, I believe there will be lots of opportunity for me in my future career.”

A big thank you to event judges: Ned Bell, Chef, Sustainable Seafood Champion; Lana Popham, Minister of Agriculture, Food; Mike Taylor, Manager, VIU Food Services; and Brian Yip, General Manager, Fanny Bay Oysters.

Nine months after the Oyster Challenge one of the students has contacted CSI with an interest in pursuing a career in seafood trading ...