COMOX VALLEY – Aw, shucks.

Another great BC Seafood Festival came to a close June 16, with a record amount of attendees for the week-long event, and a total of 69 international visitors/buyers from all over the world attending the Comox Valley-wide festival.

Ministry of Jobs, Trade and Technology as well as Global Affairs Canada supported this years’ International Buyers Delegation. They came from the United States, three from different cities in China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, and Europe, including Poland, Serbia, Croatia, Russia, Uzbekistan and the Ukraine. Asia-Pacific participants represented 28 companies, while the European delegation represented 14 companies and/or associations.

“While this event is a celebration of the finest seafood products from B.C. waters and the producers, it’s also about making meaningful connections that help support local companies and our seafood sector,” says John Watson, Executive Director of the Comox Valley Economic Development Society (CVEDS), which coordinates the event in collaboration with numerous producers, associations, sponsors, chefs and the wider tourism industry. “To have that many buyers attend and ultimately purchase products from our producers is a testament to the networking and important connections the Festival and trade Expo has built over many years.”

The week-long BC Seafood Festival started in the Comox Valley in 2006, and is the largest event of its kind in western Canada.

The International Buyers’ Mission took place from June 10-15 and included site visits to seafood companies on Vancouver Island, and participation in the International Buyers’ Reception June 13 as well as the BC Seafood Expo. Alex Sit of the Sun Wah Marine Products (HK) Co. Ltd. from Hong Kong said their company’s interest was in wild salmon, ling cod and smoked fish. “It opened my eyes on some tours, especially the oyster tours,” he said.

International Buyers Program included site visits with Salish Sea Foods, Mac’s Oysters, Manatee Holdings, Fanny Bay Oysters, CV Harbour Authority Dock Tour, Deep Bay Marine Field Station, Stellar Bay Shellfish, Pacific Seafood Canada of Ucluelet, Creative Salmon of Tofino, MOWI – Marine Harvest near Kelsey Bay, Grieg Seafood, and Browns Bay Packing.

Exhibitors throughout the week included AgriMarine – Lois Lake Steelhead, Gindara Sablefish, Grieg Seafood Canada, Hummingbird Cove Lifestyles Ltd., MOWI (Marine Harvest Canada), Underwater Harvesters Association, Poseidon Ocean Systems Ltd., BC Salmon Farmers Association, BC Shellfish Growers Association, Pacific Sea Cucumber Harvesters Association, Pacific Urchin Harvest Association, RiverFresh Wild BC Seafood, and the Vancouver Island Salt Company.

Adriana Carrillo, Manager, Agrifood, Trade Readiness and Services Branch, International Trade Division for the Ministry of Jobs, Trade and Technology, said “Buyers were delighted from what I heard. The Gala Dinner was remarkable and quite a way to end the buyers’ program. “Coordinating the involvement of so many people is truly remarkable.”

A two-day BC Seafood Festival Signature Weekend showcased various seafood-based creations from local producers and restaurants at the Filberg Heritage Lodge and Park in Comox and exceeded expectations. Thrifty Foods, which had over 1,300 visits to its booth last year to sample fare, had over 1,500 stop by on Saturday alone, before having to “re-load” with supplies for Sunday.

Bruce Turner of Heuristic Consulting Associates BC Ltd. said the “BC Seafood Festival is an incredible experience. Some of my dinner companions from the Lower Mainland said that they have been planning for years to attend this event.

“We’ve seen excellent promotional coverage of the Seafood Festival – locally and broad-based. The BC Seafood Festival is a remarkable testament to the tremendous performance of the CVEDS team and of the contribution that it makes to continuing resilience and sustainable growth of the Comox Valley – and BC – economies.