June - Myron Roth, PAg, Victoria & Islands Branch (District 3)

What are your areas of practice? What is your expertise?

I hold a B.Sc. (Zoology) from UBC and a Ph.D. from the Institute of Aquaculture, University of Stirling, Scotland, where I studied the use of veterinary pharmaceuticals for sea lice control on farmed salmon (a couple of which became licenced). This work led to a position as a technical director for a salmon farming company in BC. My grad and salmon farming work then led to a position with a pharmaceutical company licencing fish vaccines in Canada and around the world. An opportunity presented itself to move back to BC that led to my current position with the Provincial Government. So, I have expertise in aquaculture systems, technology, regulatory affairs, and best practices, fish health management and the development, use and registration of veterinary medicines and biologics. My current areas of practice are 1) aquaculture; 2) research, technology development, transfer, and application.

Why did you choose the career in which you are currently?

I have been interested in fish and fish husbandry since I got my first aquarium in grade five. Soon after I started recreational SCUBA diving when I was 16, which I couldn’t get enough of; it didn’t take long before knew I wanted a career as a Marine Biologist. University had me on track for a career as an academic but the project in Scotland was very applied and my first real exposure to the aquaculture industry. It was an amazing study/work experience.  Working in the aquaculture sector brought it all together for me. 

Why did you decide to become a member of BCIA?

When I started at the (then) Ministry of Agriculture, I was hired as an Aquaculture Analyst after having worked in the aquaculture sector for several years. An opportunity came up for an industry specialist position dedicated to aquaculture that required a PAg designation. To be honest, I had not heard of the BCIA before!  I, therefore, applied to join the BCIA to meet the job requirements and have not looked back since. The industry is very technical and operates in an extraordinarily complex regulatory environment. Registration with the BC Institute of Agrologists has made me a better aquaculture professional. 

What do you do in a typical workday or week?

I’m currently the Team Lead for Aquaculture and Marine Fisheries at the (recently renamed) Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries but also double as the Aquaculture Specialist. The great thing about my job is how varied the work and the sector are.  There are over 100 different species of marine fish, shellfish, and plants farmed and commercially fished in BC. I work with industry to solve problems and develop emerging opportunities. This can range from reviewing research and funding proposals, organizing, and/or presenting at conferences and workshops, visiting sites, providing technical advice for all kinds of committees, Ministry staff and executive. I’ve also worked with school kids and provided expert testimony for a BC Farm Industry Review Board tribunal, the first for aquaculture in BC. There is never a dull day!

What has been a technical challenge in your career, and how did you overcome it?

One of the most memorable challenges was licensing a DNA vaccine for a food fish. This was largely due to the novelty of it from a regulatory perspective – there was no template or detailed guidance on requirements for Canada. I overcame the problem by working very closely with the regulators (Canadian Food Inspection Agency). I met with them very early on in the process and at regular intervals so that we could manage expectations on both sides of the table. Further, I engaged a very inclusive team from the manufacturer’s side as we (as a company) needed to ensure everyone from R&D, manufacturing, marketing and communications, and executive were well informed and contributed throughout the process. I also worked closely with the industry to test the vaccine in the field and ensure that messaging was accurate and consistent for the media and the public. The entire process took many years and was a true team effort. Looking back, it provides some interesting context given the millions of people that have now been vaccinated with new next-generation COVID-19 RNA vaccines that were developed and rolled out in less than a year!  It really shows how far molecular genetics has advanced.

Please share some favourite bonus "perks" and/or experiences from your work history.

I met and shared the stage with Terry O’Reilly (of CBC Radio “Under the Influence” fame) at one of BC’s Seafood Expos. Probably the best keynote I’ve ever attended.

It’s always great to get out on the water. I’ve lost count of how many whales, dolphins and other marine mammals I’ve seen in BC while at “work”.  Nothing like going to a site and stopping to watch 50+ white-sided dolphins skipping through the water to chase herring!

The biggest perk; however, is the fresh seafood, often prepared by celebrity chefs, that is served and handed out at seafood industry conferences and trade shows!

 Photo: the Atlantic Sapphire site in Florida. www.atlanticsapphire.com

 This will be a land-based fish farm, when complete it will be the biggest one in the world!