It was not a good Monday for Oscar the Dungeness crab.
Despite acting as a prop for Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick, as he announced a financial boost to a program that helps diners and shoppers trace the origin of fish, there was no ministerial pardon for Oscar.
“I don’t have the power to give a ministerial pardon and set him free,” Letnick said, as Oscar lethargically waved his legs during the news conference on Fisherman’s Wharf.
Oscar, the Victoria poster-crab for Ecotrust Canada’s ThisFish program, will end up in the tank at Thrifty Foods, where the crab fisherman has a contract, said Chelsey Ellis, Ecotrust fisheries program Pacific co-ordinator.
The government, through its Buy Local program, is contributing $69,794 to promote ThisFish, Letnick said.
“People want to know where their food comes from,” he said. “Programs like ThisFish will encourage local retailers and restaurants to use B.C. seafood products and consumers to buy local.”
B.C.’s seafood industry has a wholesale value of $1.4 billion and provides thousands of jobs in the commercial fishing and seafood processing sectors, Letnick said.
Think about having a romantic dinner, with crab as the central dish, said Letnick, as Oscar, whose claws were immobilized, peed on his hand.
The crab comes with a coded tag that can be typed into a tablet or smartphone and it will quickly give you the story of that crustacean. Information includes the name of the fisherman who caught it, possibly a picture of his boat, and a map of where it was caught.
“You could even send a note to the fisher,” Letnick said.
In Oscar’s case, the fisherman was James Heggelund and he was caught in Juan de Fuca Strait.
ThisFish is already being used for species such as haddock, spring salmon, sablefish and lobster.
“This is a great tool to inform people,” Ellis said.
“We’re not trying to be a certification system. We are just giving consumers information.”
That is increasingly important with the recent focus on mislabeled food.
“Recent studies have shown that one-third of seafood in North America is mislabeled. By tracing your seafood using ThisFish, you can discover whether it is local and comes from a B.C. fish harvester,” said Ecotrust Canada president Brenda Reid-Kuecks.
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