Harvesting an invasive species and turning it into fish food is making big waves for a Vernon company.
Piscine Energetics was recently named business of the year and manufacturer of the year by the Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce.
When asked about his greatest achievement, president Nuri Fisher says, “Overseeing the growth of Piscine and rebranding the company after purchasing it in 2005.
“Also, working with environmental regulators in B.C. to restock native fish species and setting an example of corporate social responsibility in the aquarium and pet trade.”
Since 1997, Piscine Energetics has been removing mysis shrimp, an invasive zooplankton from Okanagan Lake, where it is harming the native kokanee fish stock.
Piscine Energetics, which has received assistance from Community Futures, pioneered the environmentally sustainable harvesting of mysis shrimp through the development of fishing technology.
The company currently harvests, packages, freezes and markets the frozen mysis shrimp under the brand PE Mysis.
PE Mysis is supplied to the marketplace through a network of pet supply distributors, aquarium specialty retailers, big box pet stores and is used on a daily basis by hundreds of zoological institutions and public aquariums throughout North America, including the Vancouver Aquarium, Ripley’s Aquariums, SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment and Walt Disney Resorts.
Pets and fish have been a passion for Fisher for decades.
“Since I was five years old, I have been obsessed with tropical fish and aquariums,” he said, adding that he receives significant satisfaction from his career.
“I enjoy meeting terrific people and developing tremendous lifelong friendships with industry colleagues and customers I would never have met had I chosen to pursue a career in a different industry.”
All about mysis
Mysis diluviana, commonly referred to as opossum or mysis shrimp, was introduced into freshwater lakes in B.C. in 1966.
These organisms were introduced in hopes of boosting the productivity of the lakes, providing an extra food source for kokanee and enhancing the fisheries industry.
However, scientists eventually discovered that mysis diluviana is a good prey item for large kokanee, but not for kokanee aged less than one year. The major food source for young kokanee in these lakes is a small zooplankton species called daphnia, also known as the water flea. Unfortunately, daphnia is also the preferred food item for mysis.
“This led to competition for the same food source, but the shrimp are more efficient predators than kokanee,” states the Piscine website.
“They feed during the night, whereas the kokanee do not, and they have a rapid generation time. Mysis shrimp have few predators and normally inhabit different zones of the lake than kokanee. To make matters worse, deep lakes provide vertical migration for the mysis shrimp to avoid adult salmon predation and promote rampant reproduction.”
In the late 1990s, the Ministry of Environment searched for a way to restore the native kokanee by targeted removal of the now invasive mysis diluviana.
Through the development of a special patented fishing method, whereby shrimp are captured live with no by-catch (salmon, trout or other non-targeted species), Piscine Energetics is the only company allowed to fish for mysis at night.