Aquaculture research station opens at Deep Bay

Guests check out a seawater tank at the lower level of the Deep Bay Marine Field Station, which opened Thursday.  - Scott Stanfield
Guests check out a seawater tank at the lower level of the Deep Bay Marine Field Station, which opened Thursday.
— image credit: Scott Stanfield

DEEP BAY — A white oyster shell road at the end of Crome Point Road in Deep Bay stretches 800 metres to a distinctive clamshell-shaped structure overlooking Baynes Sound.

The building is the long-awaited Deep Bay Marine Field Station, an off-campus research facility of Vancouver Island University's Centre for Shellfish Research that officially opened Thursday.

The purpose of the facility is to find sustainable ways to farm shellfish, and to help re-energize B.C.'s coastal aquaculture industry. It will also support First Nations shellfish aquaculture businesses through training and mentoring.

Comox Valley MLA/Agriculture Minister Don McRae said the building is "truly a jewel in British Columbia" that will foster learning opportunities, and contribute to the development of sustainable coastal ecosystems and job creation.

McRae notes the facility will also be a family-friendly place where visitors can learn about the ocean.

"Congratulations to everyone at VIU," he said.

The centre includes a seawater tank farm, laboratory, demonstration shellfish farm, and a combined research facility for shellfish aquaculture, marine ecology and water quality.

"It certainly is an exciting project," Parksville-Qualicum MLA Ron Cantelon said. "It's going to inspire students who come here from around the world to take back what they learn about how we can do things, about how we can work with aboriginal people to develop a sense of community centred on the ocean."

The university received $5.5 million for construction through the Knowledge Infrastructure Program, a joint federal-provincial investment designed to renew infrastructure at colleges and universities, and to provide jobs for communities. The province kicked in more than $2.1 million and the federal government $3.4 million.

Regional District of Nanaimo chair Joe Stanhope, a director with the Island Coastal Economic Trust, said the field station epitomizes the purpose of ICET, which contributed $1 million to the $10.8 million project.

Other funding partners include Canada Foundation for Innovation, BC Knowledge Development Fund, Community Futures WestCCAP and VIU.

"We are very proud of this project and grateful for the funding that has been made available to VIU to make the station a reality," said VIU president/vice-chancellor Ralph Nilson, noting the field station achieved a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) platinum rating, a first among Canadian universities.

It also won a 2011 National Green Buildings Award.

VIU's culinary program has been using the station's kitchen to prepare seafood and other dishes. Public cooking classes will also be offered.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper toured the 13,000 square-foot facility as it entered the final stages of construction last year.

The field station has hosted several events this year, including its first wedding in May.

A sustainability theme extends throughout the three-hectare site. Along with the crushed oyster shells covering the road and parking lots, the building consists of more than 87,000 board-feet of B.C. wood products, including solid wood floors made from beetle-killed pine.

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