Who runs Michelle Rose CSF?
My name is Guy Johnston. I have been a fisherman for over 40 years. I fish by trap for prawns and shrimp, while I use hook and line to catch salmon, rockfish, and lingcod — all low-impact fishing methods.
I have been lucky to fish with my family for many years. My wife Michelle started fishing with me before our children were born. We fished with our son Sebastien when he was less than a year old — he learnt to walk on the boardwalks of Namu, on the central coast. When my wife became pregnant with our daughter Rosalie, she said that I was on my own. Two kids under the age of three was way too much for a fishing boat. For a number of years, when the children were young, I fished close to Cowichan Bay as much as I could. As the children got older, I returned to fishing up north where I have fished most of my life.
Sebastien and Rosalie have fished with me since high school. This is a real treat for me. Fishing has helped both of them go to university. Sebastien is now working in the computer sciences and Rosalie is working in the theatre in Toronto. They both continue to fish on the Michelle Rose from time to time.
Where do you fish?
We fish most of the coast of British Columbia. Having a freezer boat lets us go to where we think the best fishing will be. Most years, we fish for prawns at the north end of Vancouver Island and central coast inlets .
We fish for prawns in the spring time for a couple of months, usually returning to Cowichan Bay by the end of June. We take a few days off, then rig the boat to troll for salmon. For salmon, we will fish anywhere from Johnstone Strait to the border of Alaska for sockeye, coho, pinks, and chum salmon.
We are usually gone for the summer salmon season from July to the end of August. The fall chum season in Johnstone Strait takes most of October. Unless we are doing some testing for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, we are done by November and it is time for a bit of a rest.
How is the seafood stored before delivery?
Michelle Rose seafood is frozen at sea at the time of capture to ensure we offer the highest quality product. Prawns and shrimp are packaged in one-pound lots immersed in salt water and frozen. The salmon is dressed and frozen, and glazed in chilled sea water for the freshest taste. Our catch has been certified sustainable and best choice by the Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise program.
What is the Michelle Rose?
The Michelle Rose is my family’s boat, named after my wife and daughter. She was built in 1990 in Campbell River by the Goldrups, a well-known family of boat builders.
The Michelle Rose is a big small boat, packing 30% more fish than our old boat, while being about 8% more fuel efficient. The boat is set up to fish by trap for prawns and troll with hook and line for salmon. The catch is frozen on board allowing us to range the coast, fishing many different areas from off Cowichan Bay right up to Haida Gwaii.
Why do you operate as a community supported fishery?
Many smaller fishing operations have been pushed out of the fishery over the past 15-20 years. The consolidation of markets and the influx of farmed fish have kept prices low, in some cases back to where they were 20 years ago. Add to this, the effects of climate change on fish habitat and high seas, feeding grounds, and the spread of farmed fish diseases, and we are seeing wide spread hardship in the small-boat fleet. Yet it is the smaller, long-term, independent fishermen who care most about ocean stewardship and maintaining a healthy and sustainable fishery.
A community-supported fishery is one way for me, as an independent fisherman, to remain viable, feed my family, and reduce the carbon footprint of my catch while selling direct at a fair market price.
What do you do in the off-season?
Our work is not finished in the off-season. We just don’t get paid to do it!
We use this time to refit and repair the boat. If we didn’t like how things were working, or we noticed things needed an adjustment on the boat during the season. This is when it happens. As always, there are pumps and belts and hoses that need tending to. It is easier to refurbish or replace something tied to the wharf in the winter than when out at sea. Preventative maintenance is the rule both for safety and to keep us fishing all season.
I get out my writing pad and start designing what changes I want to make. Little on a fish boat is stock off the shelf, so we design the different equipment and then go to our local welders and machinists to get it built. By the time all is done, it usually is time to head back out for another fishing season.