Buy Local Funding Turns the Tide

After a 2009 Supreme Court decision granted five Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations the right to fish commercially within their territories, the Nations collectively launched a gooseneck barnacle fishery in Clayoquot Sound … but there were a few things missing for the fledgling enterprise.

“We didn’t have a website, a product name, or a way to market it,” recalls T’aaq-wiihak fisheries coordinator, Alex Gagne.

“We were also relying on regular commercial outlets that didn’t distinguish our product’s unique attributes as being sustainably sourced food based on a constitutionally protected right.”

Help from the Buy Local program

With the help of Buy Local funding, the Nuu-chah-nulth Nations were able to address each gap by commissioning a professional marketing strategy. Under their new Ha’oom brand (which means simply “to eat”), they developed a website, a variety of promotional materials and product labelling and packaging.

Within a year, they had not only extended their reach within BC but began supplying upscale restaurants across North America.

“This project changed the whole trajectory of where we were going,” says Gagne. “The funding helped transform this T’aaq-wiihak fishery from a piecemeal operation to an established enterprise with a stable network and huge demand.”

Small Beginnings

Building on the success of their pilot fishery they launched several more operations, each contributing social as well as economic benefits to their communities.

“Not only are there more local jobs available to First Nations living in rural areas, but there is a renewed emphasis on knowledge transfer,” explains Don Hall, Program Manager of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council Fisheries Department. “The increase in employment has fostered more mentorship opportunities that will strengthen Nuu-chah-nulth communities, both economically and culturally.”

While growing international interest has opened up new export opportunities, the Nuu-chah-nulth remain focused on building their local Vancouver Island market.

The Ha’oom Brand Vision

“The Ha’oom brand embodies Nuu-chah-nulth’s cultural commitments to careful harvest, sustainable livelihoods, fresh products and local foods,” says Hall. “Thanks to Buy Local funding, consumers are now able to support and share this commitment.”

Funding: $24,940 through the BC Government’s Buy Local Program. (BL038)