If farmed fish is your nightmare, the wild-caught specimens sold by First Fish might be your dream come true.
A non-profit dedicated to building sustainable fisheries in remote Indigenous communities, First Fish has a catalogue of products from some of the world’s most pristine waters.
Founded in 2015, First Fish is a sister enterprise to Home Opportunities, a company that develops accessible housing in communities here, and abroad.
Working in Nunavut, explains Mickayla Labbé, director of marketing and sales, the owner saw a need, not just for housing, but for jobs, revenue streams, and customers.
“The communities were in need of sales avenues, and sales channels for their products and they just don’t have those connections,” she explains.
Through First Fish, the communities of Pangnirtung, on Baffin Island, and Rankin Inlet, Nunavut (where the company’s two fisheries are located), now have a way to share their wild-caught fish with restaurants, chefs and customers in Toronto and across the GTA.
The circular nature of the non-profit, also means that they see any surplus capital finding its way back home.
“Funds are reinvested back into the fisheries, to grow the business that way and create more jobs,” adds Labbé.
Available for purchase through the company’s website, at small seafood retailers, such as Fisherfolk, and, seasonally, at farmers’ markets, First Fish’s products include frozen fillets, Artic char candy nuggets and several varieties of smoked fish.
“It’s primarily been the char and the turbot,” explains Labbé, adding that the inventory has at times also included trout and white fish.
“All the fish is sustainably caught using nets and long lines,” she says, adding that “it’s often caught by just one or two fishermen going out on the ice with their Sea-Doos and pulling it out by hand. It’s as sustainable as can be. There’s no by-catch.”
The fish is “cleaned on the ice immediately after it’s caught, then flash frozen,” she adds. “The vacuum-packing happens at the fishery itself. From there, it’s flown to Iqaliut, then flown to Ottawa.”
If the trek from Arctic waters to Toronto reveals one thing, it’s that the fish’s remote habitat translates to low levels of contaminants on your plate.
Due to the way it’s processed, each First Fish product also “retains a lot of the natural oils, and is naturally higher in omega 3 and protein,” explains Divya Vaghela, marketing and sales co-ordinator.
With delivery available within Toronto and the GTA, and no minimum order, customers can stock up or simply sample a few items at a time. Pick-up is also available at First Fish’s office, at 478 Queen Street West.
Not in the mood to cook? From Avling Brewery and Tea N Bannock to Casa Paco and Mineral, there’s a number of local spots serving up First Fish products in creative, delicious ways.
With a goal of working, “with as many communities as possible,” according to Labbé, the team at First Fish hopes to grow, one fillet at a time. Thanks to a focus on sustainability, support of Indigenous communities, and fine Nunavut catch, that shouldn’t be too hard.