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Brian Blanchard Honored with Distinguished Alumni Award

Marine Institute (MI) alumnus Brian Blanchard has a distinguished career in the aquaculture industry, leading the way in his commitment to advancing aquaculture growth locally and abroad. For his contributions and service to the sector, he has earned the Marine Institute's Distinguished Alumni Award.

The new award, which will be presented annually to a Marine Institute alumnus, recognizes an individual who displays outstanding leadership and professional qualities and who contributes to their profession at the local, national and international level.

Mr. Blanchard was one of the first graduates of the Marine Institute's Aquaculture program.

"Our alumni are the driving forces behind amazing projects and initiatives in a varied array of sectors," said Glenn Blackwood, executive director of the Marine Institute. "This award profiles graduates of our highly applied programs and their impact on the economic development of this province and around the globe. Our graduates become leaders, making strong and continued contributions to industry. They are being sought out for their tremendous reputation in professionalism and leadership."

"It is a tremendous honor to receive this award and recognition," said Mr. Blanchard. "With the many programs MI offers, it is a real testament to the Aquaculture program and it's instructors as to the positive impact aquaculture is having on rural Canada."

Mr. Blanchard goes on to explain the aquaculture program was established to build technical and management expertise in an attempt to help professionalize aquaculture in the country.

"Many of the industry leaders and drivers are MI alumni, something we can all be very proud of. Those of us working in the industry have always known the value of the program and continually recommend it to those interested in participating in this sector," he added. "I love this industry. It is hard work and requires family support to be successful but at the end of the day when someone eats your product and says ‘wow that's the best fish I've ever eaten', it just makes you proud to be a fish farmer."

Mr. Blanchard, originally from Cape Breton, began his professional development with Bachelor of Science in biology from St. Francis Xavier University before receiving a graduate diploma in Aquaculture Technology from the Marine Institute and ultimately a M.Sc. Aquaculture (Distinction) from the University of Hull in England.

He started his 21-year career in aquaculture as a farm hand with Moon Bay Salmon Farms. In 1991, he worked as an aquaculture instructor with the Marine Institute's Conne River Aquaculture Training program. Since then, Mr. Blanchard has gone on to hold major positions at S.F.P. Cod Hatchery, Sea Forest Plantation Co. Ltd. and the National Research Council of Canada.

Mr. Blanchard has served as general manager of Scotian Halibut Ltd. in Halifax, NS since 1999 and has been the company's vice-president since 2006. He is the senior project manager in charge of all research and development, while providing technical and managerial support to ensure the meeting of hatchery production targets and research programs. Mr. Blanchard organized the International Halibut Workshop in Halifax, NS, in 2005 and was the president of the Aquaculture Association of Nova Scotia from 2004 to 2008.

Other alumni award nominees included Sheldon George, feed and fish health manager, Cooke Aquaculture, NL; Cory Taylor, freshwater production manager, Cooke Aquaculture, NB and Damon Woodland, production manager, Cold Ocean Salmon, Cooke Aquaculture, NL.

"We had four great candidates and it was a challenge to single out just one," said Dr. Laura Halfyard, member of the award selection committee. "Each nominee has made significant contributions to the aquaculture industry and deserves to be recognized for their leadership, commitment and achievements."

Dr. Halfyard is also program chair of MI's aquaculture program and says that the timing of the award is relevant as the aquaculture industry has reached record levels of production and market value with it being the fastest growing food production sector in the world.

Mr. Blackwood presented the award to Mr. Blanchard along with Carey Bonnell, head of MI's School of Fisheries, at the Aquaculture Association of Canada's (AAC) 2010 National Conference.

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