Lobsters are offloaded from a commercial fishing vessel at the Dennis Point wharf in Lower West Pubnico. Kathy Johnson photo

Businesses, individuals and organizations were among the recipients of the 2021 Nova Scotia Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister’s Awards of Excellence for Seafood and Sportfishing.

The awards were presented virtually on April 22 as part of the annual Ministers Conference and the Aquaculture Association of Nova Scotia (AANS) Seafarmers Conference.

Fred Greene, founder and owner of Fishermen’s Market was presented with the prestigious Seafood Legacy Award, which “commemorates an individual that has gone above and beyond to strengthen the seafood industry in a way that will have lasting impacts.”

Three individuals were presented with Lifetime Achievement Awards in recognition for their “long and outstanding service in the industry.”

North Shore fisherman Ronnie Heighton “has been in many roles to support the fishing industry,” said Tom Smith, Executive Director of the Aquaculture Association of Nova Scotia, master of ceremonies for the award presentations.

Heighton is the retired president of the Northumberland Fishermen’s Association, has been vice-president of the Canadian Council of Professional Fish Harvesters for the past three years and is a long-standing board member. He is also a past president of the Gulf Nova Scotia Fleet Planning Board, is currently a member of the Eastern Fishermen’s Federation, the Nova Scotia Fisheries Sector Council and a board member of the Nova Scotia Fisheries and Aquaculture Loan Board. He has also volunteered for over 25 years as a member of the Gulf Nova Scotia area species advisory committee.

“It’s been quite a ride,” said Heighton. “To represent fishermen all over Canada has been nothing but a pleasure to see the positive things and change. There were no big wins but a lot of little ones.”

A Lifetime Achievement Award was also presented to Sam Elsworth, president and co-owner of Sambro Fisheries. “Throughout his career Sam has maintained a reputation for fairness, collaboration and high ethical standards,” said Smith.

Elsworth has been a member of several Canadian fisheries task forces and study groups and represented the Canadian fishing industry nationally and internationally as a member of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), the North Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO), the UN Law of the Sea and the Fisheries Resource Conservation Council (FRCC). Elsworth is now managing director of the Southwest Nova Tuna Association.

The third recipient was Paddy Gray of Sambro, who is a “very active member of the fishing industry in Nova Scotia,” said Smith. A licenced fisher, Gray is vice-president of the Brazil Rock 33/34 Lobster Association, president the Swordfish Harpoon Association and a member of the Eastern Nova Scotia 4VSW management board. He is also a board member of the Halifax West Commercial Fishers Association, manager of the Sambro Harbour Authority and harbour master for Sambro, as well as a member of the auxiliary Coast Guard search and rescue team.

AKSO Marine Biotech Inc. was presented with the Product Development and Export Achievement Award, which “recognizes a company that produces unique seafood products and excels at marketing and exporting those products to the world.”

AKSO Marine Biotech Inc. is a leading dry sea cucumber processing company located in Hackett’s Cove. In 2019, it introduced sea cucumber capsules to the market — Nova Sea Atlantic, which are nutrient supplements. In 2020, AKSO Marine Biotech Inc. was the Retail Council of Canada’s annual grand prix new product award winner for Nova Sea Atlantic.

The Quality Focus Award which recognizes a company that focuses on producing the highest quality seafood products was presented to Lobsters ‘R’ Us, a family-owned business in Richmond County, which has created a fisher report card as a way to enhance standards, having a significant impact on quality. It has also created an automatic crate washer.

Kenney & Ross Ltd., Port Saxon and Clare Machine Works were recipients of the Innovation Achievement Award, presented in recognition of the development of new and innovative products or services.

Kenney & Ross Ltd. produces unique forms of fish gelatin and collagen from fish by-products and exports them worldwide. The company was also the 2004 Nova Scotia Export Achievement Award winner.

Clare Machine Works “has gained a solid reputation for building world class machine-engineered industry products and solutions” such as custom fish grating, a bait chopper and most recently, a trap stacker. The company was also the winner of the 2019 Ignite Labs lobster bait challenge.

“It’s easy to dream when you have a team,” said Clare Machine Works owner Vince Stewart.

The Inverness South Fishermen’s Association and Crane Cove Seafoods, Eskasoni, were presented with Industry Development and Advancement Awards which recognizes organizations “that have worked hard to help industry develop and thrive in today’s competitive global seafood marketplace.”

The Nova Scotia Fisheries Sector Council was recognized with a special award for providing “exceptional support to the industry” through COVID-19 and 2020.

The Meat Cove Development Association and the Cape Breton Environmental Association were recognized for going “above and beyond” to help keep the ocean and shorelines free of marine debris.            

The Inverness South Anglers Association were the recipients of the Sportfish Conservation Award for demonstrating                 “exceptional effort to restore, conserve or protect Nova Scotia’s sportfish habitat.”

The Nova Scotian Guide Service received the Sportfish Development Award which “recognizes an organization that has demonstrated exceptional effort to promote or develop Nova Scotia’s sport fishery.”

The AANS also presented three awards.

The Aquaculture Association of Nova Scotia Farmer of the Year Award was presented to We’koqma’q Fisheries, Whycocomagh, which has the largest trout farm in the province, employing 80 people at the hatchery and processing plant. The award recognizes a producer, individual or group who has made a significant contribution to the aquaculture industry in Nova Scotia.       

The AANS Employee of the Year was presented to Colton D’Eon, D’Eon Oyster Company in Yarmouth County. The award recognizes an employee of an aquaculture producer or processor who has made an exceptional contribution to their workplace through dedication, leadership, performance, innovation or via other means.

Cooke Aquaculture received the AANS Innovator of the Year Award, which recognizes a company that has made great strides in innovation.     

Three Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture staff awards were also given out.

Recognized for the coordination, design and roll out of the electronic licensing system for sportfishing were Jason LeBlanc, Alan McNeill and Colin Buhariwalla from Inland Fisheries division and Miriam Kaiser and Clay Bates from Service Nova Scotia and Internal Services.

Recognized for the eradication of smallmouth bass from Piper Lake were Bruce Osborne, Jason LeBlanc, Alan McNeill, John MacMillan, Andrew Lowles, Colin Buhariwalla and Sabrina Wolthers from Inland Fisheries division; Ralph Heighton and Gordie Greencorn from Marine division and Kevin Bekkers from Department of Agriculture.

Recognized for managing very challenging drought conditions at Fraser’s Mills Hatchery were Darryl Murrant, Stephen Thibodeau, Struan MacIntosh and John A. MacGillivary from Inland Fisheries division.