Vancouver-based science and environmental consulting firm Ecofish recently opened up shop in Cranbrook with the intent of better serving two of their biggest clients in the region: BC Hydro and Teck.
Ecofish exists to reduce the impact industry has on the environment and they accomplish this through assessment, monitoring, mitigation, offsetting and design services. They have operated for more than a decade and their new Cranbrook office is their eighth location — they also work out of Vancouver, Toronto, Victoria, Squamish, Courtenay, Terrace and Campbell River.
“I think what sets Ecofish apart is our four principles, which are scientific excellence, professional environmental ethics, business discipline and social responsibility,” says Andrew Harwood (Ph. D., R.P Bio) who will be heading up operations in Cranbrook.
“And we really bring those four guiding principles to everything we do and we really want to focus on the science-based solutions and providing advice and guidance to make projects more sustainable and greener and provide better ways of assessing, mitigating and monitoring environmental effects. And we’re really excited to bring that to the Kootenays.”
Harwood did his schooling in Scotland, first attaining a zoology degree from the University of Edinburgh and then a Ph.D in Fishery Science from the University of Glasgow. He visited Canada during his Ph.D to attend a conference and developed an affinity for the West Coast, so he decided to move to Vancouver, taking a job at the University of British Columbia where he did some work in the Great Lakes on the sea lamprey issue.
After that he got a job with ResCan, which is now Environmental Resources Management (ERM), a large consulting firm for which he did a lot of work for the mining industry. That job took him all over the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Northern BC. However, because they were focused primarily on mining, and he wanted to broaden his horizons, he joined Ecofish.
“Ecofish at the time was primarily involved in the hydroelectric industry and that’s still a very important sector for us,” he said, “but we also do work in the mining industry and the forestry industry and also a range of government projects.”
At this point, the Cranbrook Ecofish office is manned solely by Harwood, but they will look to expand and bring on a team of around six experts over the next year in order to help the company address key environmental challenges in the region and to support Cranbrook’s economy and community.
Harwood explained that to find these experts, first they will look internally, to see whether any of their current experts want the opportunity to move to the Kootenays, and then they will look externally.
“It’s driven by what our clients may need in this region so I expect that there will be aquatic biologists who look at water quality and extreme invertebrates and amphibians but also fishery biologists and wildlife biologists,” Harwood explained. “So I would say we’re still fairly early in the process of hiring, but we’re definitely looking to expand.”
In addition to consulting with governmental and industrial projects, Ecofish also strives to work with local First Nations groups and factor in their input with whatever they are doing. They have already developed relationships with the Ktunaxa Nation and Harwood says they will be looking to expand those and do work with them as they continue to grow here.
They also focus on maintaining a strong relationship with the communities they establish themselves in, performing pro bono services, or reduced-rate services to First Nations communities to assist with habitat restoration projects, or providing funds to local charities and food banks.