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General News · 14th April 2013
Ester Strijbos
For the past eighteen years the Cortes Island Seafood Association (CISA) has put on a seafood festival to celebrate our heritage from the sea. The purpose of the festival is to bring together those Cortes Islanders who make their living from the sea with the larger community, to promote a mutual understanding and appreciation of the work, and to celebrate the bounty of the ocean. The CISA is a non-profit society whose mandate is to monitor the water quality of the area surrounding Cortes Island.

The gathering began as The Seafood Festival and was held at Smelt Bay Park for many years. It migrated to the lower lawn beside the Cove restaurant as The Oyster festival, and two years ago moved to the field beside the Squirrel Cove Store as SEAFEST. Although there have been years when the spring skies gave more than a few sprinkles, and once when it was moved indoors to a community hall because rain seemed imminent, and once when the wind blew over a few tents, so far with the blessings of the sky deities, the festival has never been cancelled due to poor weather conditions. Seafoodies are a hardy lot who in years past have stood under dripping trees as well as in the hot sun for a chance to eat poached oysters in Miso sauce, oysters with fermented black bean sauce, oysters drizzled with jalapeño, Pico de Gallo or Pernod sauce, oysters panfried in corn flake crumbs, mussels steamed in white wine, oysters Rockefeller and Angels on Horseback on the barbeque, steamed clams Bordelaise, oysters glazed with lime marmalade and mustard, and prawns in a sweet chili Thai sauce served with shrimp chips.

With the help of some 45 volunteers drawn from the seafood workers, a yearly changing charitable organization, and the community at large—approximately 450 gourmet lunches are served to islanders and guests on Saturday of the Victoria Day weekend. Each year, in an ever closer relationship, members of the Klahoose First Nation have offered salmon and fry bread prepared with traditional and family recipes. When the festival has been located at the Squirrel Cove site—the Cortes Craft Store has used this holiday Saturday for the opening of the store for the season. For the past several years the Island teen organization: TeenZene, has joined in the fun by offering non-sea food and soft drinks. The festival is becoming known for the live music played throughout the day, the desert and craft tables, the spectacular beach setting looking out to Desolation Sound, and of course, for the food.

Last year a long standing challenge of where to park all the cars was relieved when the organizers offered a free shuttle by reservation, operated by the Cortes Connection and sponsored by the Cortes Community Credit Union. For confirmation of this year’s shuttle, plus features on musicians and seafood recipes, check for updates.
For more information, or to volunteer, contact Kristen at For accommodation and travel information visit

Seafest 2013 will be happening Saturday MAY 18 at Squirrel Cove

By Kristen Scholfield-Sweet

For more information, or to volunteer, contact Kristen at