New food processing hub project approved, planning ensues on Port Alberni waterfront

Deborah Potter, July 31, 2019

From fishermen to farmers and everything in between, a wide variety of foods are planned to come through a processing hub in Port Alberni. Fish will be the main priority, as well as other seafood, such as seaweed, clams, and oysters. (Deborah Potter photo)

Port Alberni, BC — 

Eight years after the Port Alberni fish plant shut down, council is eyeing up the property for a brand new regional food innovation and processing hub.

Supporting all things local is what is going to be emphasized in the new food processing unit.

From fishermen to farmers and everything in between, a wide variety of foods are planned to come through the processing hub. Fish will be the main priority, as well as other seafood, such as seaweed, clams, and oysters. Fruits and veggies, as well as poultry and other meats will also make an appearance in the soon-to-be food processing hub.

While the building itself won’t be able to employ many, Port Alberni’s economic development manager Pat Deakin says it will be able to help maintain the employment and service of local farmers and fishers. It will also help keep locally grown food where it should be – local.

Larry Johnson, a member of the Nuu-chah-nulth Seafood LP board of directors, confirmed that the processing unit will only be using wild fish, not farmed. Nuu-chah-nulth Seafood LP will be working alongside commercial fisherman and assist with domestic wild fish.

In 2015, Nuu-chah-nulth Seafood LP partnered with another fish plant in Nanaimo. St. Jeans is a cannery and smoke house, and now is partnered with NCN seafood to “build on legacies”, sell and process seafood with an Indigenous-friendly mindset, according to Nuu-chah-nulth Seafood.

Partnered with the new project are the Port Alberni Port Authority, Canadian Seafood Processing Ltd, North Island College, Nuu-chah-nulth Seafood LP, and the ACRD Agricultural Development Committee, as well as a hearty grant of $750,000 from the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture for training and equipment.

For Nuu-chah-nulth people, Johnson says that they will be able to care properly for the salmon that they catch locally, as the plant will be a functioning ice plant for them.

“It’s still in the new planning stages,” says Johnson.

In Vancouver, another food processing hub had just opened up back in February. Pat Deakin, as well as the other partners will be taking a trip to the Vancouver facility to observe, in hopes of mirroring the new processing unit for the upcoming project in Port Alberni.

While the current fish plant maxes out at 1,200 square feet, Deakin hopes to expand the building up to 4,000 square feet, with ample room for equipment and storage.

As it is still in the early planning stages, an estimated opening date has not been determined.