Ocean Wise (British Columbia)

From the ocean to the plate: Increasing Quebec business awareness of sustainable seafood practices

Kayla at the Ocean Wise kiosk during the Plage Saint Joseph beach clean in Quebec.

Science Horizons intern, Kayla Menu-Courey, at Ocean Wise kiosk during Plage Saint Joseph beach clean, Quebec. Photo credit: Yannick Suazo.

Vancouver-based Ocean Wise was delighted when a Science Horizons Youth Internship from ECO Canada enabled it to hire a dynamic young marine biologist, Kayla Menu-Courey, to expand its conservation-program presence in Quebec.

“She was the perfect candidate,” says Sophika Kostyniuk, Ocean Wise’s Director of Fisheries and Seafood in Vancouver. Menu-Courey was the lead author of a recently published paper on climate-change impacts in juvenile lobsters. She has a Bachelor of Science in marine biology from Halifax’s Dalhousie University and a Master’s degree in marine biology and wildlife management from the Université du Québec à Rimouski.

“Kayla had a lot of expectations placed on her shoulders because she was our sole fully bilingual staff person in Québec,” says Kostyniuk. “She enjoyed a deep dive into running an office, being the chief translator and training new partners about Ocean Wise.”

Kostyniuk says the new hire, whose wage subsidy is financed by Environment and Climate Change Canada, has helped the conversation about sustainable seafood in Québec, a province where “food is holy.”

Kayla sailing in the Howe Sound area, Squamish, British Columbia.

Kayla Menu-Courey sailing in the Howe Sound area, Squamish, British Columbia. Photo credit: Kirsten Neuendorff

A 65-year-old conservation organization with a mission to protect oceans, the Ocean Wise label on seafood products identifies sustainable seafood choices for businesses and consumers.

The seafood side of Ocean Wise has more than 700 business partners. These include aquaculture farms, fishing associations, restaurants, grocery store chains, and hotels. It also has partnerships with 12 countries.

Menu-Courey, whose childhood dream was to become a marine biologist, was later hired full-time by Ocean Wise after completing her internship. Although working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, she is based at the Aquarium du Québec in the provincial capital. It is a key partner of Ocean Wise.

The young marine biologist says she is excited about using her skills to achieve meaningful change. With 30% of the world’s fish stocks over-fished and global consumption of seafood at an all-time high, change is much needed.

“Businesses can really make a difference down the supply chain just by shifting their choices,” she says. “That’s what I love about our program. We are here to support our partners, educate them about sustainability and promote their efforts to the public.”

Kayla smiling.

Kayla Menu-Courey attends the Terroir Symposium Foodie Event at CN Tower, Toronto, Ontario. Photo credit: Kirsten Neuendorff.

Menu-Courey calls Kostyniuk’s leadership during her internship inspirational because it fostered mentorship and staff feedback. “As scientists we may think we understand issues and know how to come up with solutions,” she says. “But we might be missing core perspectives behind the issue. That’s why it’s important to take a step back and listen to others, and especially the people whose daily lives are impacted the most by it.”

She has taken the lead in expanding Ocean Wise’s social media presence in Quebec by creating a bilingual voice for it on its website and its Twitter, Instagram and Facebook pages. This has helped it gain new partners there.

“Throughout the pandemic we noticed a shift in consumer consciousness partly because people have had more time to spend learning about world issues and how to contribute positively to solutions,” she says. “Consumers are often ‘buying blind’ but Ocean Wise enables them to choose seafood that they can trust is sustainable. By making the right choices, you’re helping the industry from the ocean to the plate.”

For example, she explains, oysters, mussels and seaweed contribute to ocean health by filtering out excess nutrients. Not only do they help balance the ecosystem but they require no added food or pesticides. “When done right,” she says, “sustainable aquaculture is a huge part of our future in food security.”

Kostyniuk says Ocean Wise will seek another Science Horizons internship. “We are very enthusiastic about bringing young people into our programs,” she says. “Everyone loves working with young people. They are endlessly energetic and they bring a new perspective, a new lens, to the work that’s being done.”

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