There is no opening date yet for the new fish plant in High River, North West

There is no opening date yet for the new fish plant in High River, North West

The current fish plant at Hay River in February 2024. (Carla Ulrich/CBC - Image credit)

The current fish plant at Hay River in February 2024. (Carla Ulrich/CBC – Image credit)

There is still no opening date for the new fish plant in High River, North West

Although the district originally planned to complete the plant by the summer of 2020, the opening of the facility has been continually postponed.

Last year, the NWT government told CBC that construction of the facility would be completed by June 2023.

Last Thursday, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Industry, Tourism and Investment told CBC via email that construction of the fish factory was in its final stage, but they could not say when it would actually open.

According to the department, construction delays are primarily due to flooding in 2022 and wildfires in 2023. The processing line is “currently being configured and tested to ensure proper flow and optimize operation,” the spokesperson said.

The province signed an operating agreement with the Freshwater Fish Marketing Company (FFMC) to operate the plant, the spokesman said.

“FFMC is currently finalizing the plant’s production line and confirming the necessary staffing needs,” the email continued.

Until the new fish plant opens, FFMC is operating out of its existing fish plant in Hay River.

“We are seeing a steady increase in production levels from Great Slave Lake compared to recent years,” the spokesperson wrote.

Bert Buckley, who has been in the commercial fishing business for nearly 60 years, said he is concerned the project will continue to be delayed.

“I don’t know what’s going on now with the plant — you don’t hear much. I heard in time that there’s a lot of work to be done. But I asked some people and they didn’t know anything about it,” he said.

Bert Buckley is a commercial fisherman in the Northwest

Bert Buckley is a commercial fisherman in the Northwest

Bert Buckley is a commercial fisherman in the Northwest. (Submitted by Bert Buckley)

Buckley said he is looking forward to opening the plant, but is concerned that the plant will be too large for the number of fish it produces.

“Yes, the fish factory is nice and everything, but you have to put the fish in there. I have a nephew who is a good fisherman but he can’t find any help,” he said.

The official government strategy to revitalize the Great Slave Lake commercial fishery is trying to attract more residents in the Hay River area to participate in the industry.

Buckley said he thinks it’s a waste of money, because he believes the commercial fishing industry is dying. That’s what fishermen have been saying for 25 years, he said.

“I would like to see it progress, because at the moment you can make a good profit. But until you get an influx of people or the government changes, things won’t change,” he said.

Buckley said he worked with young people as a mentor in a mentorship training programme, in partnership with the province’s plans to revitalize the industry, and he didn’t think they were taking it seriously.

“They just wanted a little paycheck and they wanted to mess around, that’s all they wanted to do,” he said. “It’s nothing serious. Like when I was a kid, it was serious.”

Buckley is currently helping his son on his boat. He said the industry is hard work, and anyone who gets into it must love it or have a great work ethic.

Buckley added that he loves fishing, and will do it until he physically can’t.

“I see things that someone would pay a thousand dollars for, I see them for free,” he said. “The weather, the sky, the distance from the ground. It’s all part of hunting. I see the beauty in it.”

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