Seafest – Coming to Squirrel Cove Saturday, May 18

Seafest will be returning to Squirrel Cove this Saturday, May 18, with delicious platefuls of locally grown and prepared seafood. with live music.  

“ I think the first one was back in 1990 or 92. It was down in Smelt Bay with Redonda Sea Farms  and the rest of the community and it was a huge event. I think they had walk-on overloads on the ferry. That was really when the Seafood Association was formed.  Its primary mandate being water quality and it was formed in response to new technology that could assess dioxin pollution from the pulp mills,” explained Dave Nikleva.

Julia Rendall added, “I think in the  late eighties, it was to fight the pulp mills.  ‘Water quality’ was our mandate. Then there was a time when some people were a little bit reluctant about  us oyster farmers. They thought maybe we were getting in the way of their pristine scenery. We decided to  show them that we did have a good product for everybody to enjoy and that it is a viable industry on the island and it is necessary.”

Photo credit: Oyster – Photo by Stu Spivak via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED)

Dave Nikleva: “It’s continued in subsequent variations over the years in various places from Squirrel Cove to the Gorge and Manson’s parking lot on a windy day.  I think we’ve had a great show of support from the industry, and also from the community.”

They have both been involved since the beginning of Seafest. Julia is a former President of the Bee Islets Growers Corporation, which has their rafts close to the entrance of Gorge Harbour. Dave and his wife are independents. 

Dave Nikleva: “Since 1987,  when I moved to the island, I moved to grow shellfish.  We’ve got a few farms in the Gorge Harbour. We’ve got some beach leases and deep water leases.” 

Cortes Currents: What’s your target audience for Seafest? Who do you want to come?  

Dave Nikleva:  “It has changed over the years  and there have been changes in the location. Last year was the first time we’ve been back in Squirrel Cove for a decade or more. A different crowd of perhaps younger people and younger families were there.  That was good to see, some different people showing up for it.” 

Cortes Currents: Was last year a success? How do you define success? 

Dave Nikleva: “I’d say it was maybe half the size  of what it had been previously at the Gorge Harbour Marina, before COVID, but  it was a nice size. A good feeling there.”   

“We’re looking at hopefully about the same number of people,  maybe about 300 plates.  It’s always interesting to see who comes out, but we do have some new things happening. We do have scallops on the menu for the first time and a little change in the lineup  of cooks. So if you’ve been there before, this will be something new for you to come again.” 

Cortes Currents: Are there clams again this year?  

Dave Nikleva: “Clams and oysters umpteen different ways,  prawns, salads, and bread. There’s also going to be a cookout with First Nations doing some salmon, that’d be a separate tent for them.” 

Cortes Currents: Tell me about the music this year. 

Julia Rendall: “The music is going to be in the same place on the deck in front of the restaurant, which worked really well last year. Scotty’s putting on the music,  and so far we’re still actually looking for more musicians. If there’s anyone out there who’d like to  sing or play or dance, they could phone me or Dave or Scotty. Scotty’s actually arranging the whole music. venue.  You can send an email  to and I can forward their Information to Scotty.”   

Dave Nikleva: “The thing always seems to come together at the last minute. Glad to have them and they’re right beside the food tent lineup, so people are entertained as they wait for the next course to come along.” 

Julia Rendall: “The vendor lineup is really strong this year, and we’re going to have them lined along the road towards the store, so it’ll be  a little market there. We’ve got the radio station, we’ve got Turkish towels, body lotions, candles and  t-shirts. So there’ll be good shopping  in between the eating.”  

Cortes Currents: Is that aquaculture one of Cortes islands economic pillars?

Dave Nikleva: “I hate to call it a growth industry, but  we’re growing food for starters, which is good, and we’re able to  have some success economically  to get a living out of that, which is hard to do if you’re  a food producer. Ask any of the land farmers how hard it is.”

“Cortes and Shellfish seemed to go together. The Klahoose, Tla’amin and Homalco have been here for thousands of years. When you see the size of the middens above some of the great beaches, well,  it takes a long time to produce a midden. I  mean, really, you’ve eaten a lot of plates of seafood to get there.” 

“It is important, and produces full time year round jobs, as opposed to the seasonality of lots of other industries in the island.  Nothing beats a full time year round job.”  

Cortes Currents: How’s the season going so far this year?

Dave Nikleva: “There’s always good demand in the marketplace. There’s a minor leveling out this year with the affordability of everything in the world.” 

“May is when the water starts warming up, so we’re bringing over ice to cool down our product  as we bring it out of the water before shipping.  It’s farming, even though we are a year round industry we keep adjusting our activities throughout the different seasons.”  

Julia Rendall: “We are going to sell memberships to the Seafood Association at the Seafest on Saturday.  We’ll have a table there and talk to people about it.  It’s very important to keep our waters clean around the whole island.  I think maybe a lot of people  don’t think about it, but we’ve got  the island cleanup coming up. I think the more aware people are, the healthier the climate will be on the island.”

Top image credit: People arriving at Seafest 2023 – all undesignated photos by Roy L Hales

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