Dennis retires on his Canadian half century
July 6, 2017 - Campbell River, BC
Marine Harvest Canada’s Dennis Taylor moved to Canada on its 100th birthday, spent the best part of five decades working in aquaculture, and has now retired on its 150th.
As a proud first generation salmon farmer, he has a few mantras ready to repeat in his mixed Commonwealth accent.
“You’ve got to have your heart in it. You’ve got to be willing to do it.”
“Fish come first. Then site pride. You’ve got to have site pride.”
“Just because it is a fish farm, it doesn’t have to look like a fish farm.”
At first Dennis worked for the provincial government, growing smolts at Qualicum and Robertson hatcheries and collecting wild salmon samples in Port Alberni. Budget cutbacks in the 1980s forced him to go looking for work briefly in forestry, then as a commercial diver.
“I have been most grateful about that moment - getting my ticket to dive - because that’s what got me into fish farming. I haven’t looked back. Since 1989, I’ve been in fish farming.”
Dr. Don Furnell asked Dennis to dive at one of the early Atlantic salmon farms in Tofino in 1989. He applied all his experience in animal husbandry to his new ocean environment.
“I had 40 sheep of my own to look after from when I was 11. I’d grown up fishing, like everyone does in New Zealand. When I got to Tofino I was like, “’Wow, we can farm fish now?’ I was hooked,” Dennis says.
Dennis jumped on the chance to transfer to the east coast of Vancouver Island when changes in farm ownership allowed for it. He worked for Kelly Osborne in the Broughton Archipelago from 2000 to 2007, moving to each new farm as it was established.
“Larsen, Doctor Islet, and Humphrey Rock; that was very rewarding, a very satisfying challenge,” he says.
Dennis pursued every opportunity to move to new sites, including in 2016 when Marine Harvest received permission to open replacement sites in Klemtu. He was pleased to finish his career opening the province’s newest salmon farms at Cougar Bay and Alexander Inlet.
“The worst sites for workers are the best sites for growing salmon. It was a bit of shock for the workers going from the old farms to the new sites exposed to the ocean. I think Alex and Cougar are going to be good sites; we’re going to see some nice fish out of there,” he says.
However, Dennis won’t be there for the first harvest. He’ll be spending some long overdue time with his wife and children in Port Alberni.