Fishing boats big and small will soon have a new place to dock and unload in Queen Charlotte.
Once the current fishing season winds down, the Queen Charlotte Harbour Authority will construct a new seafood-processing plant at the end of the causeway.
About half the size of the current plant, it will house freezers and a filleting room for Albion Fisheries, which processes commercial and sport-caught fish, plus a shellfish-processing room for any future shellfish businesses that start in Haida Gwaii.
Like the existing plant, the old wooden wharf it stands on is now condemned — it will be replaced by a smaller steel structure with a loading area in the same place as the current one.
“Everything’s going to be moved over, not at Albion’s cost either,” said Jack Armstrong, one of nine board directors who volunteers for the Queen Charlotte Harbour Authority, which is part of DFO’s Small Craft Harbours program and funded by fishers’ moorage and licence fees.
“This is all being funded by the fishermen, by the commercial fishermen and the sports charters,” he said.
Already, a new belt ramp is in place on the southwest side of the causeway to bring totes full of fish up from small chartered boats to the new plant.
“They’re promoting small-boat charters because it brings money directly into the community,” said Armstrong. “The more boats we had fishing here, the more hotel rooms they used, the more cars they rented, and it goes on and on.”
“That’s what we’re missing, and that’s what we’re trying to get back.”
Besides trollers and charters, the new, slightly longer steel dock will better serve the “pocket cruisers” that National Geographic and other companies now use to take sightseers through Gwaii Haanas.
For Armstrong, who turns 82 this week, helping to guide this upgrade is one more step in what started decades ago as a way for him to unload his own troller at home in Queen Charlotte rather than having to go all the way to Prince Rupert and spend even more time away from family.
By the late 1980s, Armstrong was running an unloading business and still fishing his own boat, which he finally sold in 1994.
By 2005, with the plant certified to process all kinds of fish and supply local restaurants, Albion Fisheries bought the business, which Armstrong said remains top-notch.
“We’ve been told by so many different people that that’s the best processing job they’ve ever had, which is fine,” he said, noting that Albion also offers a discount rate to process fish for local people.
Armstrong said a final design of the new plant will be available soon, adding that he’s looking forward to the upgrade.
“It’ll be nice,” he said. “It’ll be a seafood-friendly place.”