10 questions (and answers) on the new Hay River Fish Processing Plant

News Type: 
Blog Entries

January 9, 2019

Yesterday the GNWT and the government of Canada announced $8.9 million for the construction of a new fish plant in Hay River. The state-of-the-art processing facility is a key element in the GNWT’s strategy to revitalize the Great Slave Lake fishery. 

We asked ITI’s Regional Superintendent for the South Slave, Tom Colosimo about the proposed plant and how it fits in the GNWT’s revitalization plan.

Q: When and where will this plant be built?

A: An NWT design and engineering firm is designing the plant.  The GNWT will tender its construction. The new plant will be built on two GNWT-owned lots adjacent to the existing FFMC plant in Hay River.

Construction is scheduled to begin this summer with plans to have the new plant ready and operational by the fall of 2020. The NWTFF representatives are participating in the design review process to ensure the plant is acceptable to them as it is being designed.

Q: Who will run the plant? Who will staff the plant?  Who will manage the operations of the plant?

A: A business Plan has been developed for the FFMC’s Tu Cho Fishers Cooperative that details proposed plant operations and staffing. The plan is that the Cooperative will manage plant operations (fish processing and production).

Q: How many staff will the plant require? 

When operational, the plant may employ up to 24 seasonal employees. 

Q: How big will it be?  

A: The plant will be designed around the required equipment and freezer units. Plant size can be managed as production varies but it will be easier to manage excess space then to try and acquire future funding to increase plant size.  A consultant has been retained to design the plant with a focus on efficiency. The existing FFMC plant in Hay River is approximately 1,100 square metres (12,000 sq. feet). 

Q: What type of equipment will be used in the plant to process the fish?

A: The plant will operate with a combination of manual and automated processing techniques.  The plan is to have the majority of the medium sized whitefish processed using a variety of automated equipment.  Other species would generally be processed manually due to the relatively low volumes of those fish. 

Q: Why does the GNWT want to build a plant at all?  Why not just continue with the current arrangement with the FFMC?

A: Our vision of new and expanded markets for GSL fish is reliant on our ability to deliver a processed product. 

Q: Who will provide the fish to the plant?

A: This decision would be up to the operator of the plant.  Technically any commercial fisher, legally operating under the rules as administered by DFO, could sell fish to the plant. 

Q: What is the plan in relation to getting fish from other locations around the lake to the plant in Hay River?

A: In addition to building the plant in Hay River, the GNWT is planning to establish collection stations in Yellowknife and Fort Resolution.  The idea is that these collection stations will have the ability to collect fish and provide fishers with ice.  As this plan evolves, other services could be made available at these collection stations.

Q: Where will the fish be sold?

A: This will largely be determined by the marketing plan hat is developed and adopted by the Tu Cho Cooperative.  Part of the overall Revitalization Strategy is to focus on expanding sales in the NWT and to Canadian and international markets. It is assumed that in addition to private markets, fish will continue to be sold through the FFMC for as long as this entity exists.

Q: What other products could the plant produce?

A: The priority will be to process Great Slave Lake fish and produce fillets and other products for consumption.  In time, it is assumed that additional revenues will be created in the production of added value by-products.  Examples include smoked products, fish oils, candied products, roe, IQF fillets, skin on fillets and whole gutted fish. Waste from processing can also be sold as fertilizer and pet food.