“Part of the reason I like aquaculture is because we are not an industry that gets to rest on our laurels. We have engaged stakeholders and communities who push us to do better every day,” Kathleen Allen, Council of Emerging Leaders in Aquaculture.
By Samantha McLeod
Aquaculture in Canada today generates $5.16 billion in economic activity and employs over 25,000 people. As one of the fastest growing food sectors in the world, the industry in Canada has a younger-than-average domestic workforce with two-thirds of all employees under the age of 35. Our new series, Aquaculture Ambassador, is about 14 Canadians who have come together to showcase the growing presence of young people in the sustainable future of farming the oceans. In this segment, we talk to Kathleen Allen, Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC), Commercial Coordinator North America.
Tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am an Ottawa native living in Montreal. I first got into aquaculture while completing my undergrad at Queen’s University where I stayed to get my MSc in Biology. In my spare time I am an amateur cook and a huge basketball (Go Raptors!) and soccer fan.
What drew you to aquaculture?
Aquaculture seemed like the most concrete way to apply the biological principles I had been studying. I could also loop in my history and economics background and look at this one industry in a truly interdisciplinary way.
The real game changer was getting to take over a wet-lab with thousands of fish. I got hands-on experience with my study organisms and a chance to take a step back from a desk.
What’s your average day in aquaculture like?
My days tend to vary rather drastically. Some days I study mussel aquaculture, some days I talk to supply chain partners about traceability, some days I just travel. I don’t get to play with fish very much anymore, but I do get to see the industry from a variety of points of views.
How do you plan to change the current narrative about aquaculture, in particular salmon farming in Canada, from conflict to conversations about sustainability?
Part of the reason I like aquaculture is because we are not an industry that gets to rest on our laurels. We have engaged stakeholders and communities who push us to do better every day. I like talking to people who care where their food comes from and I think that we as an industry benefit from public scrutiny. As such, I plan on listening to people who I may not initially agree with and speaking up for constant re-evaluation of our best practices. We can always do better and I think that we can grow from conflict.
What is the single biggest project you are working on right now?
My overarching goal is to promote environmentally and socially responsible seafood production and consumption across North America. It’s a huge task but one that I am very excited about.