NAIA Aquaculturist of the Year

The NAIA Aquaculturist of the Year award honours individuals for outstanding contribution to NAIA and/or the development of the aquaculture sector in Newfoundland and Labrador.


2017 Aquaculturist of the Year: Sheldon George

Sheldon George has been engaged in aquaculture for the past 20 years. He best exemplifies the aims and objectives of the Newfoundland Aquaculture Industry Association to promote, assist and foster the development of commercial aquaculture in Newfoundland and Labrador. He began his career in salmon farming in New Brunswick, eventually moved to Newfoundland nearly a decade ago, and worked with both feed companies and salmon farming companies since. 

In 2010, a colleague noted, “It is evident when speaking with others in the industry that Sheldon is held in high regard because of his experience and the energy and passion that he brings to his profession.” 

He is often the poster face for commercial salmon farming in NL, gracing government reports, NAIA publications and other promotional activities. More than this, however, he has played a key industry advisory role on various boards and committees, including the NAIA Board, the Cabinet Steering Committee on Growing Forward, and others. 

He is a proud farmer, always willing to assist the community in need, whether after floods, fires, or other disasters. Sheldon truly exemplifies the objectives of the Aquaculturist of the Year to recognize major contributions to the commercial development of aquaculture in our Province. Congratulations Sheldon!


2016 Recipients: John and Frances Kealey


Pioneers in Newfoundland and Labrador aquaculture, John and Frances Kealey were honoured as NAIA’s Aquaculturists of the Year for 2016 after a long history in the industry. In 1977, in collaboration with the Bay d’Espoir Development Association, John submitted a proposal to the Honorable Brian Peckford, Minister of Mines and Energy for the culture of cold water finfish. Two years later the Association was awarded funding to complete a feasibility study which led to the establishment of the Bay d’Espoir Hatchery in 1985 and effectively enabled the start of salmonid farming in Newfoundland.

Over the years John and Frances have operated their own farms raising salmon, steelhead trout and recently arctic char in the Bay d’Espoir region. Please join us in congratulating John and Frances on the well-deserved award!

2015 Recipients: Craig, Richard, and Sean Allen of Allen’s Fisheries Ltd.

Allens Brothers - AOTYSince 2003 the Allen’s have played a critical role in allowing the mussel aquaculture industry to grow to what we have today, a leading supplier of farmed fresh mussels across Canada and the USA. In 2003 our industry was at a crossroads, with few markets, less capital and little processing capacity. Allen’s decided to partner with the majority of our mussel growers to process mussels and assist in market development.

They have invested millions of dollars in processing ‎to allow producers to provide a regular supply of fresh and frozen mussels 52 weeks of the year to major markets off the island.  There are several growers that have their mussels processed through their plant, accounting for roughly 75% of the annual output from NL farms in recent years. 

Integrity, honesty, salt of the earth are just some of the numerous adjectives that can be associated with the Allen brothers.  Their commitment to our sector over an enduring period of time makes them the ideal recipient of the Aquaculturist of the Year award for 2015.

2014 Recipient – Jennifer Woodland 

Jennifer Woodland - 2014 Aquaculturist of the Year RecipientAfter moving back to Newfoundland and Labrador in March 2008, Jennifer made a significant impact on the south coast of the province. Her role with her Cooke Aquaculture was her priority during this time, but she also contributed to the industrys overall development and professionalism as a member of the NAIA Board. She helped establish and provide significant leadership on NAIA’s Finfish Aquaculture Technical Committee and a number of other government working groups to address a variety of issues such as bay management, fish health and environmental monitoring. She volunteered her time with the Coast of Bays Corporation where she was a strong advocate for the industry and also worked with local students and young people to encourage responsible community involvement.

One of Jennifer’s major achievements was to show leadership in obtaining ecolabel certification for her company’s NL operations. She nurtured both employees and managers over a broad geographical region through the very difficult and complex process of developing a comprehensive reporting system and preparing for internal and external audits. She put her heart and soul into her job, her industry association and into her community. At the same time she cared for her family and two daughters.  From 2011 – 2014, Jennifer was also the President of NAIA, showing tremendous leadership on a variety of fronts, by always bringing the best out in people and encouraging them to succeed. Jennifer epitomizes all that is innovative, collaborative and professional about the industry NAIA represents and is an excellent and deserving recipient of this award. Please join us in congratulating Jennifer on a well-deserved award!

2013 Recipient – Vernon Watkins

Vernon Watkins is a pioneer in the Newfoundland aquaculture industry, first starting in the mid-1980s with trout farming in the Bay d’Espoir area of the Coast of Bays as a means to enhance local employment in one of the most economically depressed regions of our Province.  Undaunted and after several years working with trout, Vernon started to farm Atlantic salmon as a means to diversify his production, and later on he even began some of the first attempts at cage rearing of Atlantic cod juveniles produced from our own hatcheries.  Through nearly three decades, Vernon has maintained that pioneering spirit dabbling in mussel culture, equipment manufacturing and supply services for the burgeoning aquaculture industry in the Coast of Bays, in addition to his salmon and trout interests.  When the tough were bowing out, Vernon was there all along to encourage new entrants and to demonstrate through sheer determination that it can be done right here, right now.  Over the past several years, he has divested his farms to larger commercial operators, and he has recently retired from the fish farming business (for now).  In recognition of his efforts and contributions to building and pioneering the finfish farming industry in NL, the NAIA is pleased to present Vernon Watkins with the 2013 Aquaculturist of the Year Award.


2012 Recipient – Joan Strickland

Joan joined the aquaculture business in the early 1990’s when she went to work as office clerk with SCB Fisheries Ltd. She has gone through bankruptcy, receivership and ownership changes as the industry and companies struggled and helped manage the reins from SCB Fisheries to North Atlantic Sea Farms to Natures Sea Farms and eventually to Northern Harvest Sea Farms.

Her competence and work ethic was recognized by everyone she came in contact with throughout this period including bureaucrats, business people, accountants and industry personnel.   Her 20+ years of contribution to the industry was acknowledged last July by Premier Dunderdale.  She has come through it all with dignity and pride and currently as the Comproller for Northern Harvest Sea Farms NL, plays a crucial role in that Company’s – and indeed the province’s – success.  She has been a most dedicated, productive and reliable manager for all the Companies fortunate enough to secure her services and even though she has probably not fed a single fish, she has ultimately fed millions of them!

Joan has always been a stalwart supporter of the aquaculture industry and the industry association.   In 2005, at a critical juncture in the salmon and trout industry, she became the first female President of NAIA – and immediately drew attention to the importance of access to capital and adequate financing.   She had experienced first-hand how the lack of both had strangled the aquaculture industry for years and kept Newfoundland from reaching its potential.  She treats money exactly how she treats people – quietly but firmly and with respect and decency.   Joan is blessed with the intellect, team loyalty and integrity that would do any business proud. The aquaculture industry in this Province is lucky to have Joan Strickland as a player and her designation as NAIA’s 2012 Aquaculturist of the year has been well earned.

2011 Recipient – Clyde Collier

Clyde has worked in the salmonid sector of the industry for more than twenty-five years. He has worked at all levels of the industry from site duties to production manager, to accounting and preparing proforma projections. Through his role with both industry and NAIA, he has participated in development of policy and initiatives at both federal and provincial levels. Many of the techniques used in the NL trout industry can be attributed to his early efforts in adopting novel technology. He was instrumental in perfecting overwintering techniques for salmon and trout and was the first farmer to employ deep water nets which proved to be key in resolving many fish health related production issues. Clyde’s involvement in the development of aqua farming in NL has been instrumental. He has been involved since day one and has seen the entire industry evolve and is now involved in setting up some the largest farms in Canada. NAIA would like to congratulate Clyde for his determination to keep this industry moving forward.


2010 Recipient – Geoff Ball

Geoff has been a mussel farmer for more than 20 years. As one of the first commercial scale mussel farmers in NL, he started a small mussel farming operation to earn extra income along with his sawmill business, B & B Forest Products Ltd. Using his skills for working in the woods and in the sawmill he put them to good use during a time when the ground fishery was collapsing. He saw the potential for creating employment and sustainable income for his community in the mussel farming business.


2009 Recipient – Boyd Pack

Boyd has been involved with the industry for well over 20 years, with his first introduction to aquaculture in the early 1980s in the Coast of Bays Region. He was involved in convincing government and many naysayers that salmonid aquaculture would work on the South Coast. Boyd along with several others were successful in convincing private investors as well as government to invest in the industry. Those early investors set out to prove the viability of the salmonid aquaculture industry in the region


2008 Recipient – Cyr Couturier

A lecturer and researcher at the Marine Institute of Memorial University of Newfoundland, Cyr is well known both locally and abroad for his involvement in aquaculture development. Mr. Couturier has been involved with the growth of aquaculture industry in the province for over 25 years and has made significant contributions to the development of the Newfoundland Aquaculture Industry Association.


2007 Recipients – Jennifer and Doug Caines

With over 20 years in the business, the couple originally started their own company Shell Fish Farms in Pool’s Cove in 1984. Ms. Caines, a biologist, and her husband Doug, a fisherman became interested in growing scallops. Today, Mr. Caines is the manager of Nature Sea Farms, formerly North Atlantic Sea Farms, a salmon operation in Pool’s Cove that also has a site in Bay d’Espoir and a processing facility in St. Alban’s. Ms. Caines said it is a fully integrated business with a hatchery and grow-out site as well.


2006 Recipient – Juan Roberts

Juan has been farming mussels for approximately 20 years in Green Bay, NL. His passion and dedication to the business are not easily surpassed. Juan has given a spark of hope to other producers, government, funding agencies, and others by showing them that this business can be viable and can be a major contributor to the economic growth of the Province and the country. He has done more for the export of the product to the mainland, and has become a major player, in the fresh market with Allen Fisheries.


2005 Recipient – Job Halfyard

After retiring from teaching and being a principal for over 30 years, Job decided to start a variety of businesses in his home town to try and stimulate the local economy and provide employment for the rural areas. He successfully started a variety of businesses including a mineral assay company, a motel, and several mussel farms in the Green Bay and Connaaigre Bay area sub arctic environment, often failing, but always persevering. Other potential farmers gained from this experience and were able to commercialize more rapidly due to these achievements. . He continuously tried to adopt new methods and technologies to farm mussels in Newfoundland’s sub arctic environment, often failing, but always persevering. Other potential farmers gained from this experience and were able to commercialize more rapidly due to these achievements.


2004 Recipient – Pat Dabinett

Pat has more than 25 years of experience in Research, Development, and Commercialization of the shellfish industry in Newfoundland and Labrador. Mr. Dabinett established and operated the industry environmental monitoring program throughout most of 1990s, which was later taken over by DFA but is still used by the salmonid, shellfish and cod farming interests to this date for site selection, environmental assessments via CEAA and so on. He was instrumental in establishing and operating the first larval mussel monitoring program in early 1990s for the NAIA.


2003 Recipient – Jonathan Moir

Jonathan Moir while being president of Northern Aquaculture Corporation was influential in the development of the cod aquaculture sector in the province. First working in the industry at the Canadian Centre for Fisheries Innovation Development, Moir helped develop a fledgling cod-aquaculture culture grow out program using commercial fishermen, aided by the Sea Forest Plantation company in St. John’s



2002 Recipient – Terry Mills

Terry Mills, the first recipient of the aquaculturist of the year award, is owner and operator of Norlantic Processors. He was recognized for his pioneering and successful involvement in the mussel aquaculture business for 17 years, at that time. A past president of NAIA, Terry was also recognized for the drive and commitment that played an important role in the development of NAIA, as a strong industry voice, in the early 1990’s.


More information about the Aquaculturist of the Year award:
The Aquaculturist of the Year award honours individuals for outstanding contribution to NAIA and/or the development of the aquaculture sector in our Province (see Appendix for further details). The emphasis is on significant contributions to NAIA or the industry over time.

Award Eligibility:

Any former or current individual NAIA member engaged in aquaculture-related activities in Newfoundland and Labrador is eligible to be nominated to receive the Aquaculturist of the Year Award.

Award Nomination Process:

1. The criteria for evaluating Aquaculturist of the Year Award nominees are intended to be inclusive. That is, people from all sectors of Newfoundland aquaculture should all be equally considered as potential nominees.

2. The nominator(s) must provide a written nomination with reasons for nominating the individual, including their achievements, and how they best exemplify NAIAs objectives (see Appendix for details).

3. Nominations must be received each year by email to the Awards Committee Chair, Cyr Couturier for review and approval by the awards committee.

Award Selection Committee consists of past Aquaculturist of the Year Award Winners

The award is presented each year during the Aquaculture Banquet at Cold Harvest – NAIA’s Conference & Trade Show. For more information, please contact [email protected]


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