Stories at Sea is a series of interviews highlighting artisanal fishermen, fisheries, and suppliers who are furthering the seafood industry within Canada. We are here to tell their stories and to pass on their wisdom to the greater community.
Orca Seafoods is a custom fish processing facility, specializing in Groundfish. A longtime Vancouver local, Orca has been perfecting their trade for nearly 30 years. Working closely with BC fishermen, they assist in offloading, preparing and processing their catches to serve the local community.
We sat down with Roger Takama, their Operations Manager, to hear more about his tenured career in the seafood industry and how Orca is preserving the lost trade of seafood processing within British Columbia.
Hayley From Coastline: Roger, can you tell me a little about how you got your start in the industry?
Roger: I was born and raised here in Vancouver. My father was a salmon fisherman, so I have been around seafood my whole life.
I’ve been in the industry since I was 16 years old. It was good money. My first summer job was washing totes. I started at the very bottom and built my way up.
How long have you been with Orca Seafoods and what do you do for them?
I have been with them from the very beginning, around 30 years ago. I am now the plant manager, running the entire operation. I’ve worked my way up to management early on and have been here ever since.
What products do you work with?
We work with primarily Groundfish from BC: Cod, Sole, Rockfish. We are a custom processor, so we help a number of local partners process their stocks.
We do work with some other species as well, such as herring. Orca is one of the few plants with a landing facility located right on the Fraser River. For those fishermen who catch specialized products like Herring, it’s an extremely accessible option to offload and skip the freight shipment fees.
What do you want Orca Seafoods to do be doing 10 years from now?
If the seafood industry can stay strong in terms of wild stock levels, I think this company will thrive. There is a limited amount of expertise on how to handle this type of fish. There used to be many plants located throughout the lower mainland, but now we are down to only a handful, located solely in the city or on the island. Orca is one of the oldest plants in the province.
There is a limited amount of expertise on how to handle this type of fish. There used to be many plants located throughout the lower mainland, but now we are down to only a handful, located solely in the city or on the island. Orca is one of the oldest plant in the province.
Fish processing has become a niche market where extreme expertise is needed. The trade has become nearly forgotten, making it hard to hire the skilled labour needed. The lack of a continual labour force has caused many of our neighbours to shut down. It’s also very difficult to recruit a younger workforce. All the young people are moving on to cleaner and better jobs.
What do you see as the future of seafood?
BC’s Groundfish operation is well managed currently, due to strict monitoring of quotas. If we can keep this up, I see a strong and healthy future for BC groundfish.
If you could pass any knowledge on to people starting in the industry what would it be?
Start from the bottom and learn as much as you can. Learn the basics and work your way up. I started out cleaning totes. I now manage an entire plant that supports over 40 people in the community and their families.
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