Local company Salish Straits Seafood is looking forward to the new year when they will officially have their new flake ice plant up and running.
“It will be the only commercial flake ice and salt flake ice plant south of Nanaimo,” said company President, Dan Claxton from the Tsawout First Nation where the plant is based. “Once we’re inspected we’ll have the green light to be able to start selling our ice.”
Salish Straits Seafood is part of the Pacific Integrated Commercial Fisheries Initiative (PICFI) which is an initiative aimed at achieving environmentally sustainable and economically viable commercial fisheries. Conservation is the first priority of the initiative and First Nations’ aspirations to be more involved are supported.
Initially, the federal government committed $175 million over five years to implement the initiative between 2008 and 2012. As part of the 2012 federal budget and economic action plan, additional funding was committed towards a one year extension.
“Through the initiative we’ve built this company which encompasses five nations from the Island,” explained Claxton, adding that along with Tsawout, Nanoose, Beecher Bay, Malahat and Sooke First Nations are also involved in the business.
“We’re changing the way seafood products are caught. Local restaurants and people buying seafood want local and sustainable products and that’s what we’re giving them,” said Claxton.
Claxton said the company is centered around building the skills, experience and the capacity of the five First Nations involved and he hopes to see the business expand from fishing and ice production to the processing of seafood products as well.
“It’s important to us because it’s getting (First Nations) back into the fishing industry, and most importantly the commercial fishing industry,” Claxton said. “Along with the flake ice plant which was custom made to include a stainless steel drum, we’ve also just purchased four commercial fishing vessels. This is about getting the five nations back on the vessels and back fishing.”
Claxon said around 15 people are now certified to work as commercial fishing crew and about 12 are expected to be certified as commercial divers very soon.
The ice plant is expected to be in full production by the beginning of March.