Breeding and feeding fish for a lifetime

April 3, 2017 - Campbell River, B.C.

By Gina Forsyth

Kyle Fairbanks is a specialist at breeding and growing small fish in indoor tanks. Nowadays, he applies his fish husbandry skills to growing Atlantic salmon fry at Marine Harvest’s Dalrymple Hatchery.

Growing up in Lillooet, B.C., it wasn’t unusual for Kyle to have up to 20 aquariums in his home. 

“My Dad bred all types of exotic fish. Freshwater angels, guppies, mollies, platties, catfish, all the common pet store varieties,” Kyle says. ““I had a bunch of tanks in my bedroom where I grew whatever I wanted.”

He has bred more than a dozen species of exotic fish, though hardly ever goldfish which were “boring and easy”.

His father’s hobby turned into Kyle’s profession. In the early 1990s, he moved to Vancouver Island to study aquaculture at Malaspina College, now Vancouver Island University. Teaming up with six classmates, he started a business growing tropical aquarium fish. The group bred and sold five production fish, creating full time, year-round work. At its peak, their system had more than one million fish in 24 custom-built recirculation units. 

“We would fill the van with fish and take them as far as Seattle to be sold,” Kyle says. “We got to know the fish and wildlife officer at the border pretty well.”

In 2000, Kyle started work at United Hatchery in Fanny Bay, owned by one of Marine Harvest’s predecessor companies, Omega. It was his first experience raising Atlantic salmon fry. "I think the early stages of fish growth are the most exciting," he says. "It's unbelievable how well they grow.”

He’s now been growing fry for 17 years. He was managing United Hatchery when it closed, and then he moved to Dalrymple Hatchery in Sayward. “I managed the incubation department and first feeding for a few years and now I just focus on fry,” Kyle says. 

Is he still growing and selling tropical fish on the side? No. His two tanks at home are “community tanks full of random fish” and his children (aged nine and 18) haven’t developed a taste for aquaculture, yet.

When he’s not feeding fish, you can find Kyle camping, travelling or enjoying a music festival. Tribune Bay on Hornby Island is one of his family’s favourite summer spots.

Kyle Fairbanks